It’s almost difficult to remember a time when pornography was not seemingly everywhere, but that was actually the case just a few generations ago. Of course, there were pornographic magazines and small, nondescript theaters even then, but pornographic materials were not something that the average person could just stumble across without warning. Those who encountered it usually did so after seeking it out. That’s no longer the case, though, and we now live in an age in which pornography is available with the click of a mouse and many young people have access, making teen pornography addiction a real problem..
While some might shrug and wonder why pornography’s new ease-of-access should be of concern, the fact is that this material is having a destructive impact on some of our most vulnerable citizens. Nowhere is that impact felt more keenly than in the teenage population of the United States. Thanks to the rapid rise of the internet and its usage as a primary platform for the viewing and dissemination of pornography, a growing number of teens are struggled with addiction. And make no mistake: teen pornography addiction can have a major impact on their lives in ways that are incredibly destructive.
How Big is the Problem?
In the United States of America, access to the internet is almost universal. Millions of American teens have regular access to online activity both at school and in the home, with many of them now using the internet as a primary aid for homework and other school activities. Unfortunately, though, that also means that they are often but a click away from viewing materials of a sexually explicit nature – and that’s a real danger.
Pornography is everywhere online, and it’s there because it meets a demand. According to some reports, as many as 28,000 people are viewing pornography online at any given time in the day. It’s a problem for both young and old, with roughly 40 million adults in the United States admitting that they have a habit of watching online pornography on a daily basis. In 2010, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families reported that 47% – nearly half – of all American families admitted that pornography has become an issue within their homes.
A growing number of those addicts are still in their teenage years, and are among the most vulnerable when it comes to pornography-based behavioral and health problems. Teenagers are still at a point in their lives when their brains are continuing to mature and develop. Research indicates that exposure to pornography in the online environment can have a deforming influence on the pleasure centers of the teenage brain, and that can affect overall brain development in a negative way.
Why Does Teen Pornography Addiction Occur?
Teen addiction to pornography has a physiological cause that is important to understand if it is to be effectively addressed. During the teenage years, the brain is undergoing massive changes as billions of critical synaptic connections are formed. Those connections are often shaped by the influence of the environment in which those teens exist, including their experiences during those years. That influence can be either positive or negative, depending upon the nature of that stimuli.
How Watching Pornography Affects Teens’ Brains
Unfortunately, the regular viewing of pornography by teenagers can alter brain chemistry in ways that shape those children’s perceptions and attitudes about relationships, sexuality, and the overall nature of the human dynamic. That viewing also creates unrealistic expectations about sex and human interactions, as well as false expectations about physical characteristics. This can lead to dissatisfaction with real-life human and sexual interactions later in life, as those expectations take root in the child’s mind.
That dopamine rush that teenagers receive when they engage in masturbation while viewing porn can also create a conditioned response to those unnatural expectations. Just consider these facts:
• The average length of a male penis is reportedly 5.8 inches – more than 2 inches smaller than the average length of a male porn star.
• More than four of every ten female porn stars have had breast enhancement surgery.
• Female porn stars often undergo dramatic cosmetic makeovers to eliminate flaws and enhance their appearance. In side by side photographic “before-and-after” comparisons, they are often unrecognizable.
• Pornographic sex is often far more extreme in its brutality than most real sexual encounters.
• Pornographic encounters are depicted as separate from any other type of relationship, and tend to focus on nothing more than instant sexual gratification.
Those false expectations can be dangerous when coupled with the addictive nature of the dopamine rush teens receive from exposure to pornography. With regular viewing, teens come to equate the pornographic experience as normal, and look for that same experience in real life. This can color their relationships with other human beings, and can even lead to increased sexual aggressiveness and abusive behavior. It can also lead to social rejection, which then reinforces the pornography addiction as those teens seek even greater solace in the world of porn.
What Are the Warning Signs of Teen Pornography Addiction?
For many families, the warning signs of teen addiction to porn can be difficult to spot. Like other addictions, teen pornography addiction often manifests with anxiousness, reduced focus, and even the signs of ADHD. Teens can become sullen, spend more time locked away in their rooms, and become uncommunicative with parents and other family members. Unfortunately, many parents can struggle to differentiate those behaviors from the typical withdrawal that teens often display.
Experts recommend a direct approach to the issue, and suggest that parents speak openly about the topic with their teenage children. Ask your teen whether he or she has ever viewed porn, how often they watch it, and why. Be sure to be nonjudgmental, so that your child knows that it’s safe to discuss the topic. Ask questions that can help you to determine whether he or she is demonstrating any desensitization to the images and scenes. Clear evidence of that desensitization would include behavior that seeks out new and more exciting images on a regular basis.
Finally, monitor their online activities. Sure, you want them to have privacy – but you also need them to be safe. Where addiction is already present, work with your teen to block pornography access, and seek help where necessary. Teen addiction to pornography can be just as dangerous in its own way as addiction to alcohol or any other chemical substance.
Recovering from Porn Addiction with Treatment
If pornography is discovered, parents owe it to their children to move aggressively to get them the help they need to recover. That’s the best way to ensure that your child can recover and grow up to enjoy healthy relationships unaffected by the scourge of pornography. At the Family Center for Recovery, we specialize in addiction treatment and have programs for teens and adolescents. Contact us today or visit our website to learn more.