Children and Pornography

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Children and Pornography


I have been studying human behavior for 40 years.  I am able to approach most topics with professional objectivity.  However, the recent information about women and pornography, especially children and teens, has stunned me.  Most people are used to hearing about males and pornography, sexual interests and behavior.  Though deeply disturbing, we are not astonished to learn of male sexual manipulation, abuse, and even sexual predation.  We accept that we have an obligation to train boys to value girls as other than sex objects.  We train girls to be wise in terms of male motives and goals.  We tend to think that males will pursue sexual contact if it is accessible, but women are involved with early sexual experiences out of a desire to be loved, accepted, desired, and secure.

We are now facing a radical shift in how females view pornography, sex and body image.  My research reveals the following:

  • Over 90% of boys and 70 to 80% of girls are exposed to internet porn before the age of 18 with many professional and advocacy groups arguing that this is “normal and healthy” sexual development.
  • 80 to 90% of minors are looking at sexual images online on a regular basis.
  • The average age to start viewing pornography is 11 or 12 while “sexting” (provocative images and content over cell phones) is considered almost routine for many 13-14 year olds.
  • 50 per cent of minors participate in webcam sexual experiences.  They are making porn.
  • 80 to 90 per cent of teens ages 15 to 19, boys and girls, report oral sex activity.  Many claim to be “virgins.”  “Hooking up” refers to sexual activity outside of a meaningful relationship, even anonymous sex.

What are some of the effects?

  • Easy access to pornography is changing the way young girls view their own bodies with some even wanting cosmetic surgery to look like porn stars.  Makeup and attire reflects pornography images as do poses on Facebook.
  • Schoolchildren are becoming desensitized to sexual images after accessing hard core material.
  • In the United Kingdom official figures show that more than 3,000 pupils were excluded from state schools in 2010-2011 for sexual misconduct.
  • The biology of the female brain may be changed by sexual images and casual sexual encounters.  This has significant implications for our culture as the capacity for bonding is essential for mother/child relationships.  The potential multi-generational effect is staggering.

I believe that early exposure to pornography, and certainly sexual encounters, can lead to addiction, failure to develop normal human bonding, development of false identity, and choices that limit one’s options later in life.  All children are at risk.  The ones most at risk for exposure to pornography before the age of 10 are children in homes where pornography and sexually explicit main stream entertainment are viewed.  Children 11 to 14 years of age are at most risk if they have internet access in private places, such as bedrooms.

What can we do?

  • Open, frank discussions of the effects of erotic entertainment and pornography must begin.  Most current sex education contains no reference to pornography or “sexting”.
  • Teach the truth that sending sexual images by phone and internet are illegal and punishable acts.
  • Parents need to be present and engaged with children of all ages.  The parenting style that most promotes sexual aberrant behavior in children is the cycle of overinvolved/detached parenting.
  • Community.  We must know our children’s friends and the parents of our children’s friends.  We may not know all that goes on, but we will know a lot.
  • Teach clear standards.  “Oral sex does not generally precede kissing in a relationship with any boy worth loving.”  We must get over any hesitancy that we have that leads to avoidance and we have to teach, preach, and monitor.
  • No smart phones, no private use of computers and tablets and filters on all electronic communication devices and games.  Yes games.  I was working with a family that found hundreds of images and videos on their son’s game device.
  • Spy.  Actively monitor all email, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls.  Monitor every room in your house.  This applies to drug use prevention also.
  • Eliminate all adult use of erotica and pornography.

The message for us all is a slogan I have taken from my personal mission statement, “Know who you really are and live as if you believe.”

Paul VanValin PhD, is founder and President of Eden Counseling Center and Eden Family Institute.  He and Becky have lived in Chesapeake since 1997.

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