Many parents get cold feet when it comes time to having “the talk” with their kids. With children in middle school reporting sexual activity, parents must begin talking with their children about sex in elementary school.
In addition, parents may not be equipped with up-to-date information. While parents may believe that a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancies are central reasons to encourage sexual responsibility, there are reasons to believe that internet access to pornography has multiplied the risks.
A U.K. study commissioned for the Channel 4 documentary “Porn on the Brain” in conjunction with The Daily Telegraph indicates that addiction to pornography is causing problems among many teens. Conducted by researchers at the University of East London, the study finds that one-fifth of boys between the ages of 16 and 20 reported that they relied on pornography as a stimulant necessary for actual sex.
The study was conducted through an online survey of 177 students, finding that 97 percent of the male participants had viewed porn. Of those that had viewed porn, 23 reported difficulty in abstaining from watching porn, and 13 percent reported viewing increasingly more extreme porn over time.
Seven percent of those that had viewed porn said that their habit had spiraled out of control and they were in need of professional assistance to stop. The students also reported that they had experienced relationship problems and had suffered a blow to their social lives because of their compulsive viewing of pornography.
The study was led by psychology lecturer Dr. Amanda Roberts who said there’s a problematic level of porn use for some of the boys within the respondents, with the widespread availability of internet porn fueling their addiction.
Dr. Roberts also believes hardcore pornography can have a serious impact on teenagers, distorting teens’ ideas of what they and their partners should look and how they should behave in a sexual way. Another study by the Telegraph suggested that 28 percent of adolescents believe porn affects how they act in a relationship, with girls believing they need to act like porn stars in bed in order to attract males.
As a result, teens that watch porn or that have partners who watch porn may experience damage to their self-esteem and they may feel confused and angry when they cannot stop watching the material.
Experts say that part of the struggle in not being able to stop watching porn is due to the self-control portion of their still-developing brains not being in place until their mid-twenties.
Dr. Roberts says that porn is one of the most searched words on the Internet. While teens previously had to access porn through a video store or in magazines, porn is now available for free at any time.
The problem is not limited to males. Eighty percent of the girls involved in Roberts’ study had also viewed porn, with eight percent of those expressing difficulty stopping and 10 percent seeking out increasingly more extreme content.
One major difference between the girls and boys in Roberts’ study related to their reasons for watching porn. Boys cited pleasure as a motivation for watching, while girls tended to watch porn out of curiosity or to learn about sex.
The recent attention to widespread pornography viewing and addiction among teens has raised some questions about the current sex education curriculum being used in the U.K. Last updated in 2000, experts fear that the curriculum may not prepare students to make informed decisions about sexual activity.
Parents may not want to wait for the updated government curriculum before having “the talk.” Ways to prevent pornography viewing include setting limits on screen use and talking with teens about the difference between pornographic videos and reality.