Pornography: helpful info for every parent talking to their teens

As parents, it can be so challenging to have conversations with our kids around the topics of sexuality and relationships. One of the most difficult areas to discuss with our teens can be the topic of pornography. While the effects of pornography may be a contentious issue, there has been a great body of research that indicates the alarmingly negative impact that pornography is having on young people. I believe that as parents, we have an opportunity to lead this conversation with our teens, giving them the appropriate, reliable information necessary in order for them to make informed decisions about their exposure and usage of pornographic content. So, in order for us to have these healthy, constructive conversations with our kids, it’s important that we ourselves are informed about the dangerous and pervasive nature of porn on young, developing brains. I am confident that having the right information around the impact of pornography on teens will empower us to equip our kids, helping them to make positive decisions and experience healthy relationships over the duration of their lives. So here are three fundamentals that we believe every parent should know when navigating this conversation with their kids: 1. The Problem Pornography is increasingly becoming young people’s key source of sex education. Research tells us that the average age of exposure to pornography is as young as 11 years old. Whether this is a result of a young person stumbling across pornography on their own device, searching a sexual term on google or being shown explicit content by someone else, we find that pornography is so often initiating young people into their understanding and education around sex. The somewhat infinite accessibility of pornography, its affordability and its anonymity makes for what the late sex researcher Alvin Cooper (PhD) refers to as The Perfect Addiction. Young people have more exposure and access to technology than ever before with very few (if any), restrictions. Therefore, we find that pornography in many ways can quite literally be framing an unrealistic perception for young people around what sex truly is. 2. The Science Pornography is putting young brains at risk of unhealthy sexual development. Sexual stimulation produces high levels of dopamine. In fact, sex is one of the highest natural dopamine producers. Pornography, however, due to its novel nature, produces an unnaturally high amount of dopamine in the brain. Even without taking pornography usage into account, the teenage brain will produce more dopamine than any other time in their life. This, paired with the high levels of dopamine from porn exposure can lead to what is known as hypersensitivity in the teen brain. When a young porn users brain becomes so obsessed with seeking pornography due to this prolonged exposure to high levels of dopamine, it can lose the ability to feel satisfied. Porn users find themselves wanting porn more while liking it less, never feeling fulfilled. Research finds that excess pornography consumption in the developing brain can cause a numbed pleasure response, an alarming implication on a young viewers sexual development. 3. The Impact Pornography is having a significant impact on young people both personally & relationally. We believe that it is so important for us as parents to understand the negative impact that the exposure and usage of porn can have on young people both personally as well as relationally. There are over 100 peer-reviewed studies that signify the damaging impacts pornography can have on the human person. For young, vulnerable brains, it can have a confronting impact on teens development, sex drive & relationships. Increasing research indicates that when young people are growing up with consistent exposure to pornographic content, their brains will prefer digital content rather than real-life sexual experiences. A 2007 study found that when a person is continuously strengthening the brain maps that link their sexual excitement to porn, the enlargement of those maps can leave little to no room for brain maps that link sexual excitement to a real-life human experience (Doidge, 2007). Whilst we understand that these three aspects of the damaging effects of pornography only scrape the surface, we believe they provide a simple framework for parents to understand the necessity of having these conversations with their teens. We strongly believe that as those conversations begin to unfold, young people will be more equipped to make informed, healthy and positive choices in regards to their usage of porn in the future. If you are wanting help in having these conversations with your teen check out www.braveparenting.com.au

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