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What’s happening with the next generation when it comes to pornography? How will porn use affect them, and their marriages?

We’re in the last Monday in our series about porn in April. We looked at the effects of porn; at 4 things you should do if your spouse uses porn; at the 4 stages of recovery from porn. Plus we had a lot of extra posts throughout the month! I asked Connor to do some research into porn and sex trafficking, and some research into how big a problem porn really is.

And now, for our final post, I asked him to take another stab at some research and look at what is happening with children and porn, and what today’s teenagers may face. Here’s Connor!

This post contains affiliate links to offset the costs of the blog.


I am back with another post about porn, but this time we are going to be looking at its impact on the next generation.

Let’s talk about porn and our kids.

Porn is more accessible than ever before for adolescents.

Gone are the days of needing to go to the magazine rack in a store, picking up a dirty magazine, showing your ID, and paying for it. Anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection has access to porn right at their fingertips.

If a kid knows what porn is, it is so easy to find on the internet for free with no barriers to access. Even if they don’t know what it is, its not difficult to stumble upon it. Adult content is on social media, on game and animation sites such as Newgrounds, and in sidebar advertisements in many corners of the internet.

With it being so accepted and accessible in society, it’s no wonder that 53% of boys aged 12-15 admit to using porn [1]. That’s an upsettingly large number followed by an upsettingly low number.

It’s not just boys though. Also admitting to porn use are 28% of girls in the same age group, greater than one in four [1], though estimates of how many actually use porn whether they admit to it or not are higher [2]

So what’s the big deal?

I work at To Love Honor and Vacuum, I’m a father, and I keep my ear to the ground in the world of psychology research, so it’s only natural that I would look into the effects of pornography specifically on developing adolescent minds.

Let me tell you, at first glance the findings are scary.

But as always, I am not here to incite panic.

Let me explain. There is a lot of research on porn use in adolescence and the results point to this being an issue that all parents, religious or not, should take seriously. I could write a whole research paper on this alone, though I doubt it would make for great reading.

Instead, I want to briefly list a number of factors related to adolescent porn use, and then just keep moving right on into a constructive discussion of what we parents should take from this, and what we can do to protect our children.

First let’s talk about what appears to increase adolescent porn use:

  • Normalizing attitudes toward porn use [2-5]
  • Poor psychological well-being [6, 7]
  • Sensation seeking personalities [5-8]
  • A lack of perceived independence from parents [9, 10]
  • Peer pressure [11]
  • A history of abuse [12]

Next, what appears to result from adolescent porn use:

  • Increased likelihood for females of being a passive participant in unwanted sex [13]
  • More permissive sexual attitudes [3, 14-17]
  • Increased likelihood of sexually harassing others [3, 14-17]
  • Preoccupation with sex [3, 14-17]
  • Poor psychological well-being [4, 8, 18-20]
  • Reduced religious values over time [21]

Finally, what things are associated with porn use, but without a clear direction of cause and effect:

Here’s what I mean by that. These things are associated with porn use, but it’s not clear if porn use CAUSES these things, or if kids who do these things are more likely to use porn, or if they both feed each other:

 

  • Males who use porn generally have more distorted assumptions about sex life and negative gender attitudes (women are dumb, women are manipulative and deceitful, women need to know their place, etc.) [10, 11, 22, 23]
  • Adolescents with relational problems with peers are more likely to be frequent porn users [24, 25]
  • Online gaming, cyberbullying, and sharing nude/sexual selfies are more common behaviours  in adolescent porn users [26]
  • Internet risk behaviours (unsafe/inappropriate chat rooms, disclosure of personal details, sexual conversations with strangers, etc.) are more common in adolescent porn users [26]
  • Depression and lower self esteem are more common in boys who use porn, though they also perceive engaging with pornographic material to be a source of approval from peers [27, 28]
  • Adolescents who use porn tend to have sex younger and more frequently [29]
  • Social networking sites are positively correlated with both perceptions of peer approval and sexual behaviours (1, 27, 28)
Sad Boy with Porn - Defeating Porn: A Look Ahead at The Next Generation

If that list of correlates seems daunting, good. If you have kids, porn is something that you absolutely should not disregard. Their brains are still undergoing a lot of critical development, which makes them more susceptible than adults to the damaging effects of porn. And accidental exposure is easier today than ever before.

But not all is hopeless. The best thing you can do is prepare your household and your kids before they are exposed to porn. And even if they have already been exposed, there are still things you can do to mitigate or undo the potential harm.

1. Talk to your kids about porn

Trust me, do it. As uncomfortable as it may be, it is so much easier to protect them from porn when they can help protect themselves. And they can’t do that if they don’t even know they should be keeping an eye out for danger on the internet.

A lot of adolescents are first exposed to porn before they even know what they are looking at, and their curiosity may lead them to seek out more. But if you sit them down beforehand and explain what porn is, why they shouldn’t look at it, and what to do if they come across it (in a way that is appropriate for their age and their exposure to the internet), you can get ahead of the problem.

Think about it. If they don’t learn about it from you, they will learn about from the world. Whose definition of porn would you rather they learn? And we HIGHLY recommend Good Pictures, Bad Pictures books, with the younger one for kids 4-7, and the older one for kids 10-12.

Let them know that porn is fake. It’s not what real sex is like. Let them know that it is harmful for them, but also for many of the actors and actresses. Even though they may look like they are enjoying it, it often doesn’t feel good, and many of the actresses are being forced to do things they don’t want to do. (For more information about the link between porn and sex trafficking, check out this other post I wrote here)

Talking to them about porn is like a vaccine. A little uncomfortable at first, but it will help protect them if they are exposed.

If you need help figuring out how to approach the talk, check out The Whole Story. With a younger and older version for each gender, it will guide you and your kid through topics like puberty, sex, porn, and hygiene at an age-appropriate level. Check it out HERE. And we’ve got a special on right now during COVID so that you can take advantage of having a captive audience!

Shocked girl image TWS - Defeating Porn: A Look Ahead at The Next Generation

You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!

Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly. 

That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!

2. Keep lines of communication open

This is just an important parenting tip in general, but is particularly helpful for porn. You want your kid to feel comfortable coming to you if they come across porn on the internet, or if they have general questions about the subject.

They will likely feel embarrassed, or even shameful, even if it was an accident, so it is important to maintain a shame-free and judgement-free environment. Otherwise they may keep it a secret.

In fact, research finds that poor parent-child relationships, low parental care, and low family commitment/communication are associated with more frequent porn use [11, 30]. This shouldn’t be the only reason you want to have a good parent-child relationship, but it is another reason that communication is important.

3. Raise them to respect the other gender

Teach your kids from a young age that people are children of God first, male or female second. This may seem like a no-brainer, but research shows that men who solicit prostitutes are far less likely to have been taught in sex-ed that women are equally deserving of respect [31]. It makes a big difference. Teaching them to see the equal value in both their own and the opposite gender can likewise reduce the appeal of porn, especially porn that is violent or degrading in nature.

This is important, because violent and degrading porn use is common among adolescents, and is associated with increased at-risk behaviours and their likelihood of being sexually victimized [32]. Boys who use porn are also more likely to sexually harass others.

Porn will try to teach your kids if you don’t teach them first.


Other Posts You May Enjoy:


4. Monitor screen time

Monitoring your kid’s screen time is not just a great way to discourage inappropriate internet use, but also just a good parenting move in general.

There are a number of ways you can do this, but I suggest keeping computers and TVs in common areas. Nothing discourages risky searches like knowing your dad is reading a book just a couple of metres (like feet but longer) away.

If your kids are just starting to be introduced to the internet, it is helpful to teach them how to avoid clicking on ads or pop ups. You can also have rules that they are only allowed to go on a few sites. If they want to add a new one, they need to convince you why they should, and then you vet it to see if it is safe. My parents took this approach with me, and I learned as a result that the internet is not a place to roam freely. It is a place to be cautious because not everything is safe.

If your kids don’t already have personal screen devices like smart phones, tablets, or laptops, hold off on buying those as long as you can. Non-smart phones like the Nokia 3310 3G are starting to make a comeback. They are cheaper, still call and text, and many of them don’t support wi-fi. You can also have tablets or laptops that the kids can use, but that are considered “family devices,” so they stay in common areas.

If your kids already have phones or other devices, there are still steps you can take. You might set up a charging station in the living room where all devices get plugged in each night before bed. You might use the device settings to set up screen time limits or to block certain apps. And, of course, you can always turn the wifi off every night at 10:30 (or whenever you choose). This also encourages everybody to get some sleep!

An important note here though: pick an approach according to your situation. You don’t want it to feel like you are depriving your kids of too much of their independence. That can strain your relationship, and in some cases can also push kids toward porn [9, 10].

Sad Girl with Porn - Defeating Porn: A Look Ahead at The Next Generation

Silhouette of sad teenage girl looking out the window on a cold autumn day

5. Install Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes is practically a must if you have kids in your house, especially if they have devices. You can put it on all of your kids devices and the home computer, so wherever your kids go, you can rest assured they are protected. You can set up strict filters so they can’t access questionable sites, but internet filters typically also block many sites with comments features, including Youtube. Covenant Eyes has a lot of configuration options so you can select the best coverage for your family, but the feature that really sets it apart is the screen accountability.

You can set up Covenant Eyes so that monitors rather than blocks internet behaviour. You can adjust how sensitive you want it to be, and then it will keep track of what happens on your kid’s devices, sending you a report of questionable activity. You can then review the sites in question and decide whether to bring it up with your kid. If your kids know that you know what they’re up to, they will be a lot more discerning in how they use the internet.

 

Find freedom from porn!

Live porn free - Defeating Porn: A Look Ahead at The Next Generation

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

However…

6. Be open-minded

When kids feel they need to keep secrets from their parents, they start to see disclosure as optional. And often, NON-disclosure will seem a lot less uncomfortable. That means that when it comes to creating boundaries around the internet, less is often more.

The world is changing at a lightning pace, and you might not see value in the same things that your kids do. But we need to distinguish between what we think is pointless and what is actually harmful. When we aren’t open-minded about our children’s interests, we risk pushing them toward secrecy.

Now, obviously, I am not talking about allowing anything that is blatantly harmful like porn or porn-adjacent material. But if your kid likes a musical genre that you dislike, or if they really enjoy a TV show that looks stupid to you, or you see that they have gone on a site that you don’t think they should have though you don’t have a reason why, don’t automatically write those things off. Recognize that there is a difference between taste and morality. Honestly evaluate these things for what they are, and talk to your kids about them. Find out why your kids are interested in these things and see if there is really any harm being done. If something is actually harmful, explain why.

If your kids are convinced that you only say no to things that are actually bad for them, they won’t feel the need to keep harmless things a secret from you. And you will actually be helping them to develop discernment for themselves as well.

When the problem is that “mom wouldn’t approve,” the solution is to keep it a secret. When the problem is that something is unhealthy, the solution is to avoid it.

7. Check in with your kids

You may notice a lot of the advice here is about communication and openness. That’s because it really is your best tool in the fight against porn. You can protect your kids so much just by talking to them about porn, and giving them clear instructions for what to do if they come across it. You want them to come to you, but you should also go to them.

Check in on how they are doing socially and emotionally. Are they having trouble with other kids at school? If they are playing lots of online games, what kinds of interactions are they having with other players? Are they being disrespectful towards girls in their life? Are they showing signs of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem?

These are all issues that should themselves be addressed (and in doing so, you may reduce the risk of them seeking porn), but they may also be signs that your kids are secretly using porn, or that there is something else going on. Don’t assume, but it’s worth looking into.

Again, this is why we created The Whole Story (and my brother-in-law David and I actually feature in the boys’ version, telling some of our stories about battles with porn!). The Whole Story is not meant to be a replacement for parents, but rather a resource to start these conversations, so that you can keep them going. That’s what’s important–that YOU are actually able to talk with your kids about important things. So check out The Whole Story, while it’s on its super-low COVID price!

 

The battle against porn is not hopeless

Society has normalized porn, and many people see it as a rite of passage or a coming of age. But it is not healthy, and it is not inescapable. If you take the right steps, you can give your kids a fighting chance against a pornographic culture, while teaching them how to discern healthy from harmful. I hope you come away from this post with a better understanding of the power you have to safeguard your kids from porn.

Teens and Porn - Defeating Porn: A Look Ahead at The Next Generation

What do you think? Do you have other methods you have used? Is there anything that has helped or hindered? Let me know in the comments!

 

Sources

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