The “Pornification” of Youth
It’s one of the biggest topics being discussed across the mainstream media, teenagers access to pornography. Never in generational history has porn been more available or more explicit than with the rise of the internet and technology. Gone are the days we can legislate to make sure “men’s magazines” are in a sealed plastic bag keeping curious teens from flicking through a playboy at the local shop and gone are the days more explicit material was controlled through Adult Stores maintaining all customers were 18 and over.
But what does access to explicit material do for teenagers capacity for intimacy?
Between the ages of 12 and 19 we go through one of the most significant psychological development stages, the formulation of identity. So it’s no surprise that during this period teens start to rely less on asking questions of their parents and more through seeking information from peers and other sources. The younger generation display the capacity to access information quickly and more efficiently that we ever could. Been told to “look it up” in The Encyclopedia Brittanica whilst being reminded of the financial investment to get them didn’t strike joy into the hearts of my generation. (Also the cat wizzed on the carpet near them so a psychological barrier was formed of going near them). But just think for a minute, teenagers are programmed to question why, they look for verification of the information they are being given. Asking the google algorithm can return access to porn sites and material they never expected as an answer to an innocent question.
Putting explicit porn and a developing brain together can have a far reaching impact on the formulation of intimacy and unrealistic expectations on themselves and others as to what a healthy sexual relationship is. More seriously, it's having an effect on the actual wiring of their sexual norms. Uninhibited access to as much porn as a teenager wants, as frequently as they want it, has the ability to escalate to more and more extreme types as their brain desensitises to it.
A study published in 2014 from Cambridge University tracked the behaviors of compulsive porn users:
“Over 50% of subjects (average age of 25) had difficulty achieving erections with real partners. yet could achieve erections with porn”.
What do you think not being able to achieve an erection with a real partner does to each of these individuals self esteem, self worth and desire to achieve a long term healthy relationship?
And that's not to mention the effect it has on women's perceived expectations of themselves and their partners' expectations of them. When women's orgasms are shown as a caricaturised performance in service of pleasing a man, something gets really skewed in terms of what teenage girls can hope to experience for their own fulfillment.
So what can parents do
Although many of us have seen or used porn to put a spark in our own relationships, our generation understands porn is based in fantasy. Action movie makers don’t really blow up monuments and the majority of teens understand all the explosions and slow motion martial arts are CGI generated and based in fantasy. They require access to this information regarding porn.
The first thing to remember is not to shame them if you discover your teen is watching porn. Sexual curiosity is normal. Bursting through their bedroom door at unannounced intervals will also achieve little other than arguments and possibly a power struggle. Cutting all access to the internet and taking all devices may make you feel comfortable but it may not achieve your desired outcome.
From our research there are 5 basic tips to discussing porn with your teen:
1) Be Aware. Hiding behind false beliefs that it couldn’t be my child will not resolve the issue if they are viewing porn. Educate yourself on the issue to gain awareness and understanding. Speak with a relationships counsellor to help formulate a successful plan if you are feeling out of your depth or uncomfortable.
2) Open Communication. The cornerstone of ALL relationships. Be open about the subject and engage, not lecture, your teen to discuss it with you. Make them aware you know and try to encourage them to come to you to discuss it. Openly discuss what a healthy sexual relationship entails (and no, not all women will let you do that and they have a right to say no.) It may be hard but remove all swift and harsh judgements.
3) Family Values & Valued Science. Discuss openly your family values. As they are in the stage of formulation of identity these values are the foundation in their development.They define who we are and what we stand for. We rely on them to make good decisions and get through challenging times. Teenagers question everything they are being taught. They’re wired that way. Most parents approach pornography from a moral standpoint, teenagers need facts. Why is pornography harmful when viewed to early in sexual development? Explain and try to avoid the “because I told you so” stance. There are some excellent documentaries online they can view which explain why.
4) Establish an Agreement. Approximately 80% of porn viewed by teens is in the home and lets be realistic, cyberporn is here to stay. Establishing an agreement feels less authoritative while still showing them that their parents care how they view it, how often they view it, and when they view it. Establishing media standards in the home can also help by decreasing exposure to inappropriate material. Ask them what they consider too far when viewing porn and set it as a boundary. Whatever the agreement you set, set it in concrete and stick to it. This will also depend on the age of the teen. If they are 12-13, we encourage you discuss with a professional.
5) Supervise Devices. Most parents understand that pornography can be viewed through computer internet access but few realize that it can also be accessed through the TV, an iPod, iPad, cell phone, most gaming devices, Blu-ray players or any other internet enabled device. It’s important that parents are supervising the use of all devices. Remember that all supervising has to be done with the right intent. Parents are responsible to protect their teens, not police them. If they feel policed then the effectiveness of supervision, including filtration tools, can have a negative effect.
It’s not an easy subject, we know, but we can educate our kids to make an informed choice if you let your teen know that their porn habits today could affect their ability of having a healthy sexual relationship in the future, some will care. If we don’t educate our kids, the porn industry will. If you require further support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (In Australia) to speak with one of their counsellors.
The Pornification of Youth
By Vicki Blair
Note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Be Daring.