Increasingly, both adults, as well as adolescents, turn to the internet to view free or paid pornography. In many circles of individuals between the ages of 12 and 25, pornography viewing is done in small groups, with partners or spouses as well as on an individual basis.
Several studies by groups such as the American College of Paediatricians, the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Department of Health in Western Australia all point to very specific issues that children, teens and young adults with a history of viewing pornography are at risk to develop.
Other studies from other countries and organisations have produced similar results. It is also relatively similar in all studies as to the percentages of children and young adults interviewed that have witnessed specific sexual acts depicted online. These statistics include:
• Approximately thirty percent children between the ages of 11 and 16 report seeing sexual images online, including nudity and close up images of genitals.
• Approximately twenty percent of these children and young adults report watching sexual intercourse or oral sex, including with multiple partners.
• Approximately seven percent report watching violent sexual acts including rape, forced oral sex, bondage or sado-masochism.
• According to a study in the USA by the Barna Group, young males between18-30 were the highest viewers of pornography with 79% reporting viewing at least once a month and 63% reporting viewing more than once per week.
• In repeated studies, teens and young adults self-reported 51% of males and 32% of females saw their first porn online before the age of 13.
It is more common for boys and young men in these age groups to voluntarily initiate the viewing of pornography than women and girls. It was more likely for girls and young women to watch porn involuntarily or to feel pressure to watch to satisfy someone while on a date or in pressure from the group.
While it is natural for children and young adults to be curious about sex, viewing explicit nudity and sexual acts is linked to very real psychological, interpersonal and relationship issues as the child matures and enters into his or her own relationships.
Children and young adults that view explicit sexual material online can be impacted by a single incident, particularly if the sexual interaction includes violence or extreme types of behaviour.
The longer the viewing of this material, and the more chronic in nature the behaviour, the higher the risk level. Typical issues reported by teens and young adults include:
• Desensitization to sexual images requiring increased violence or content to achieve arousal
• Males reported increased callousness or uncaring towards the feelings of partners
• Increased acceptance to sexualization of children and people of the opposite gender
• Unrealistic expectations about sexual experiences
• Decreased understanding or concern about partner consent prior to sexual activities
• Unrealistic body image issues
• Stereotypical attitudes towards sexual roles and identities
• Increased normalization of random partner sexual activities and encounters
• Decreased use of condoms as well as decreased concerns about sexual diseases and sexual health
• Increased risk for the child or young adult to become sexually involved with an older partner, putting them at risk for abuse or sexual trafficking
• Increased risk of children being "groomed" by sexual predators
• Increased risk of addictions, depression and other mental health issues in the future
• Increased risk of divorce and serial partners in life
The research continues to demonstrate how viewing pornography, particularly for older children through young adults, creates changes in the brain similar to those seen with addictions. This is a serious concern for parents and mental health professionals to provide general education about the risks of pornography and the possible impacts on relationships later in life.
Keywords: addictions, psychological
By: john Bradyen
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