Wednesday 13 February 2013

Why SHOULD parents be concerned about pornography?

If parents can cast their mind back to the pre-internet days, it was almost impossible for most young children to stumble across porn, but if they did come across a magazine or pornographic photos, this might have satisfied the average teenage boy’s curiosity.  Nowadays live sex, rough sex, same/group sex etc are a click or two away on the house computer and millions of children (around 7 million) as young as 5 or 6 have stumbled accidentally on graphic images.   There are a number of statistics available, for instance:

  • 3% of teenage boys and 17% of teenage girls have never seen internet porn, the rest may have occasionally looked at sites and others seek out such sites regularly.

Whatever the figures, the number of people viewing internet porn is growing faster in the UK than the rest of the world and the largest group of internet porn viewers are reputedly aged 12 – 17, the young, impressionably and easy to brainwash.   So if, like us, your children are this age, it’s time to take action.

Since 1995 the internet porn market has grown to an estimated 250 million pages/sites.

And brainwashing is exactly what is happening.  The teenage brain undergoes massive re-wiring, laying down behavioural templates, call them habits for the future.  The internal brain modifications are influenced by external experiences, impressions and memories which are banked in the brain.  During adolescence the brain becomes hard-wired resulting in your child developing their adult attitudes, values, core beliefs and personality.   

The more exciting, risky, arousing and exhilarating those experiences are, the greater the likelihood for addiction.   How?  It’s all to do with biochemical thrills.  Introduce the teenage brain to a biochemical rush via drugs, alcohol, food issues, self harming and the brain will wire itself up with receptors which need “feeding” with more of those feel good chemicals.   Watching porn results in a massive biochemical rush. 

During the teenage years the sexual template starts to develop.  In evolutionary terms dormant cells become activated by the innate human need to find a mate, commit and procreate - it is a powerful force of nature.   Adolescence is also a time of natural curiosity, experimentation, risk and the need to move away from family/home towards peers and other influences.   But while the accelerator is being applied, so is a teenager’s innate brake pedal at work – natural feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, fear, confusion, shyness, sometimes loneliness are present during this time.

Today’s young are under a lot of pressure (academic, performance, image, sexualisation etc) and the need to reduce stress is quite high.   Porn, alcohol, drugs, food, smoking and so forth work as de-stressors because they give you a "high", numb negative emotions, make one feel calmer and more socially at ease.   However these coping strategies tip, during the teenage years, very quickly from occasional usage into a habit and onto an addiction.

Porn is probably the new big concern parents should have in terms of addiction potential. What are the consequences? 

Their psychosocial development (mind/emotions/identity in a social environment) is affected, e.g. a boy’s sexual appetite/attitudes & practices develop within 3 years following first ejaculation.  So a 14 year old boy, experimenting with pornographic images for arousal in lieu of an actual relationship is affected by:

  • Being massively de-sensitised whereby he can only get aroused by the images/practices stored in his newly formed memory bank as opposed to having an actual relationship
  • Developing a skewed attitude towards girls, relationships and expectations.

So if we wish our children in the long-term to have the potential to form a “normal” healthy relationship - with one person, which develops slowly, is based on trust, respect, love, commitment - then exposure to porn prior to this time needs to be avoided.  

Counselling Services are a source of up-to-the-minute issues as they are working at the coal face and from what we hear there is a massive rise in young men, in their 20s who are seeking help because they are unable to have a normal sexual relationship, and worse, some can’t be bothered. 

And your daughter?  We live in a sexually charged culture, and she is impressionable and sensitive to outside influences.  We can’t ban TV or the Internet, and with books like “50 Shades…” becoming best sellers and MTV’s inappropriate music videos, the general sense girls imbibe is that media celebrates beauty and sexy, promising popularity, attention and success.  

The concerns amongst parents we talk to is that our children (e.g. age 13) are getting involved in age-inappropriate activities, at parties, sleepovers or in homes where there are no parents present (eg after school), and the pornographic nature of their activities demonstrates the powerful influence of media/internet. 

So what can parents do?  A lot – but here are a few ideas:

  • Get computer savvy: find out about internet controls and firewalls, restrict Adult Cable TV and explain why you feel it appropriate to place restrictions at home
  • No teenage boy has inbuilt self-control, and certainly not when with his peer group and it is late at night…..
  • Educate your children to protect themselves, logging on to dodgy sites means that you can be traced via your IP address
  • Talk to your teenagers and find out what their view ARE on pornography, hopefully you may be reassured by their attitudes and choices. 
  • Don’t avoid embarrassing topics and leave things to chance – Dads MUST start talking to their sons!  Your influence now is important, otherwise he is at the mercy of what is going on in society.
  • Help your daughter to see that trading sexual “favours” to gain acceptance & popularity is social suicide long-term.  Some things have not changed, boys may want more from girls, today’s girls may be willing to deliver, but their label/reputation will last forever
  • Appreciate her innate qualities at home in order that she can nurture her self-respect, don’t let her acquire admiration from her peer group by being included in activities which do not accord with her values
  • Role model respectful loving communicative relationships at home so they have an innate sense of what a healthy relationship looks like

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