(By Dawson McAllister)
The Millennial Generation and Generation Z face an issue that no one before them has ever faced…internet pornography. The access, volume and intensity of pornography available to adolescents today is like no other time in history.
When pornography first hit the internet, there was a lot we didn’t know. How easily would adolescents find it, how would it affect their brains, their actions, their love lives and their lifestyles. We always knew it couldn’t be good, and now the research backs those assumptions and leads us to even more discouraging conclusions on the negative effects of pornography on adolescents. It’s time we all learn how to educate our kids on these dangers of internet pornography.
I would love to reach kids before they get caught up in pornography. I get so many calls from young men and women who have been so overtaken by a pornography addiction that their lives have become very dark. Take for example this call from Kyle:
So I’ve done some research, and below is what I believe to be three of the most threatening effects of internet pornography on our youth.
- The addictive nature of pornography
- The sex education pornography is providing this generation
- The inability for those who are addicted to pornography to develop intimate relationships with a real person
I want to dig into each of these points further, but I first want to acknowledge that this is not necessarily a comfortable subject to talk about, but please bear with me. It is important to bring this subject to the light where it can be dealt with because a pornography addiction is so often accompanied by deep shame and secrecy.
In this call with Hunter he talks about keeping his addiction a secret and his inability to fight it on his own.
I’m sure most teens who first view pornography never think they will become addicted and end up in a position like Kyle or Hunter. So let’s first look at a simplified explanation of the science behind why people become addicted to pornography. It all has to do with what goes on in the brain when someone views pornography. Our brains have reward pathways that keep us doing things that promote life…such as eating or having sex. So as we participate in one of these activities our brains release chemicals, specifically dopamine which helps us feel pleasure and motivates us to come back to the important activities that make us happy. As dopamine surges through the brain a pathway is created that leads us back to the behavior (such as watching porn) that created the dopamine rush in the first place. As someone watches increasing amounts of pornography, the brain begins to adapt to it so that even though the dopamine is still being released, they can’t feel the its effects as much…so they watch more porn or more hard-core versions to get the same rush. And when they try to cut back, after saturating the brain with so much dopamine, it can lead to withdraw symptoms.
And according to the organization Fight the New Drug the risk for teens is ever greater. “…for teens, the risks are especially high, since a teen brain’s reward pathway has a response two to four times more powerful than an adult brain—which means teen brains release even higher levels of dopamine. Teen brains also produce higher levels of iFosB, leaving them extra vulnerable to addiction.”
For a more detailed explanation on how porn becomes addictive visit – http://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-can-become-addictive/
Second, let’s consider the dangers of adolescents receiving their sex education from porn.
Some researchers have stated that the average age a person first comes in contact with internet pornography is 8 years old…most often accidentally. But their curiosity is roused and their viewing may go on from there. It is safe to assume then, that many of these adolescents who have seen porn, have never had a sexual experience of their own at this point. So they are learning about sex from what pornography portrays. So what is pornography teaching them about sex?
To begin with pornography sends the message that humans are objects to be used for your pleasure, rather than people who are to be loved and nurtured. It demonstrates an extremely selfish view of sex being only about their personal pleasure rather than an act of love.
More disturbing yet is that research shows that a porn user’s perception of what is normal sexual activity becomes extremely warped after watching excessive amounts of pornography . Again according to Fight the New Drug, “In a 2012 survey of 1,500 guys, 56% said their tastes in porn had become ‘increasingly extreme or deviant.’…many porn users find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or that go against what they think is morally right.” The more extreme pornography often includes violence, and research also proves that users who watch violent pornography begin to think that these violent behaviors are normal and common and even enjoyable for all involved. Unfortunately, as they begin to think it is “normal” behavior, they are also more likely to act it out. http://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-affects-your-sexual-tastes/
I talked to Taylor about his porn addiction…he admits how desensitized he has become to things he shouldn’t be looking at to the point he is afraid that if he keeps it up he could end up in prison.
Finally, if our teens become addicted to pornography and then also develop a depraved concept about sex, the next outcome could likely be that they have a hard time finding the ability or desire for an intimate relationship with a real person.
“Many teens never have the chance to learn what a healthy relationship is like before porn starts teaching them its version—which is typically filled with violence, domination, infidelity, and abuse. Since most people aren’t too excited about the idea of being in an abusive relationship, teens that have gotten their sex ed from porn often find that they struggle to connect with real romantic partners and that they don’t know how to be turned on by anything other than images on a screen.” http://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-damages-your-sex-life/
Want to scare your teen out of viewing pornography? Tell them that science shows it will diminish their ability to enjoy sex with their spouse someday.
“The problem is not in the body, but in the brain. What often ends up happening is that the teenage viewer’s brain becomes wired to be turned on by porn and can no longer experience this with a real partner. Basically, watching virtual sex can make having actual sex impossible.” http://fightthenewdrug.org/4-reasons-why-porn-isnt-as-harmless-as-you-may-think/
Not that we want our teens to be having sexual relationships before they are married, but we would like to believe that someday they will be able to form a relationship that could lead to marriage. If the pixels on a screen have become more attractive than any real person, their chances at real love are diminishing. And even if they find love, will they ever be satisfied with their partner?
My hope in writing this blog is that we will be motivated to warn kids about the dangers of pornography so that they understand that the risks outweigh the rewards. Hopefully this knowledge will equip them with the strength to walk away when something inappropriate pops up on their screen or a friend wants to show them something.
If you are concerned your child is already watching pornography, don’t lose heart. There is a lot you can do to help them. Bringing the problem to light and being willing to talk to them about it without shaming them is a good first step. It will also be important to encourage them to find an accountability partner as well as safe-guard all electronic devices. There is a variety of software available for this purpose. Here’s an option from our partner XXXChurch–https://x3watch.com.
You can also encourage them to call TheHopeLine® as this young lady shares in this video, calling TheHopeLine helped her in her struggle with pornography. She didn’t feel judged, but rather was reminded that she is still the daughter of Christ.
Additionally, if you believe that your child may have seen pornography, this series from our partner Focus on the Family may be helpful to you.
Finally – let us come together in prayer over this issue.
Knowing that God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine, let us pray that this generation is protected from the lure of pornography at their fingertips and stands strong against it. And let’s pray even BIGGER…let’s pray that the porn industry takes a hit…that their profits drop…that they are not continually rewarded for bringing such darkness to the world.
Here is a scripture to pray over the young people in your life. 1 Peter 1:13:
So prepare _________’s mind for action and may [he/she] exercise self-control. Put all _______’s hope in the gracious salvation that will come to him/her when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.
God Bless You!