By Amy Steele, LCSW – June 5, 2018 –
Surprisingly, the average age of a child the first time they see adult content on the internet is 11 years. Kids don’t have to be looking for mature content; it is programmed to find them.
To think that it won’t happen to your child leaves them at risk for stumbling upon sexually-explicit material online (whether they are looking for it or not) that they are not developmentally able to handle, emotionally or mentally.
Tweens and teens are at the age of natural curiosity about sex. When presented with the opportunity and such easy access, many are choosing to view adult content – and doing it more than once. Today’s sexually-explicit content is drastically more graphic, violent, deviant and destructive than anything ever seen before.
Highly sexualized, violent material poses many risks for a developing brain. In the adolescent years when brains are still developing, viewing this type of adult content can deform the pleasure centers of their brain.
Neurological research has found that pornography is particularly addictive because of the neuro-chemical release in the brain that occurs while viewing it. For many youth, the euphoric “high” that occurs quickly develops into a coping style for escaping emotional distress.
Studies have shown that kids who viewed sexually-explicit content for hours each week have less gray matter in their brain than those who did not view it. This means there are fewer neurons and neuro-connectivity in the pleasure centers of the brain, leaving the brain craving more while making it harder for the same images to provide pleasure.
Therefore, young viewers seek more graphic and violent content, an indicator of addiction. Males make up the majority of those addicted to sexually-explicit content, but females are also addicted.
Youth that view this mature content once a month or more are at a greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, sexually permissive attitudes, preoccupation with sex, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, unrealistic ideas about sexual relationships, insecurities about body images in females and insecurities about sexual performance in males.
As an adult, they are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouse. Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one party having obsessive interest in online pornography. With the increase of internet pornography and pornography addictions, there has been an increase in violent sex crimes, an increase in child pornography, and sex trafficking is at an all-time high.
Parents, it’s time to let LOVE overpower the discomfort of discussing this topic. Talk to your tweens and teens about sexually-explicit content. Keep revisiting it; this is not a one-time conversation.
Look for teachable moments in the media and daily life. Remind your child of your family values. Tell kids where adult content may pop up online and what to do if they find it – turn it off and talk to a trusted adult.
Reassure them they will not be in trouble if they come to you right away. Teach them about responsible online behavior and rules. Establish house/family rules such as computers/laptops must be in main living areas; devices must be kept out of bedrooms; phones must be turned into parents at night for charging. Block pop-ups on computers.
Most importantly: Frequently check kids’ phones, tablets and computers. Read their texts and emails. Look at their pictures, social media and other apps. This is not an invasion of privacy. It is your responsibility as a parent to keep your tween or teen safe in the age of technology.