Teenage use of pornography is unfortunately pretty prevalent. According to internetsafety101.org a majority of pornograhy contains violence and bad language. Over half of teen boys aged 12 to 15 have viewed internet porn, and almost a third of girls in that age bracket have as well. What’s more disturbing: internetsafety101.org also reports that two thirds of young men, and half of young women see vieweing pornography as an acceptable thing to do. In general the way we become tolerant of something that once appalled us is consistent exposure. In the world of psychology this is called desensitization.
For parents who are trying to preserve the sanctity of sex in a committed relationship, and trying to teach these values to their children, pornography use among teenagers is definitely cause for concern. These videos teach nothing about intimacy, emotional connection, marriage, monogamy, and respecting women.
Here are some signs that your teen might be using the internet inappropriately:
- They consistently clear their browser history.
- They seem to close a tab on their phone regularly whenever you walk into the room.
- They excessively masturbate.
- They won’t allow you to see what apps they keep on their phone.
- They close the door to their room whenever they’re on their computer, tablet or phone.
- They use terms you don’t think they should know when they discuss sex.
Just because these signs are present doesn’t mean your teenager is viewing pornography. However, it’s worth asking the question in that case.
What do you do if you find out your teenage son or teenage daughter is watching porn? Getting angry is a natural response. You probably feel both betrayed from their lying and sneaking, and scared that they might do harm to their relational development. Try to focus on what you’re feeling underneath the anger. That’s what’s worth expressing to your child. Those are the things that will make an emotional impact and help them think. Just yelling will deepen what is likely to already be immense shame.
You will also need to place tight restrictions on their internet use. You will have to diligently monitor what they are doing online. There is a natural high that occurs from viewing sexual content (Why do you think there’s so much of it in TV and movies?). This high causes people to come back for more and more. That’s why it easily develops into an addiction. It takes time for this craving to stop. It takes even more time for your teen to decide it’s something they don’t want to use again.
Oftentimes therapy or counseling is needed if the use is frequent. Your adolescent may need to work with a therapist who has experience in treating porn addiction. Teens can feel a lot of shame for this behavior. They are often embarrassed and therefore reluctant to be forthcoming about how extensive their pornography use is; a good counselor for teens will know how to delicately maneuver through these emotions.
If you have more questions about the situation your teen is dealing with don’t hesitate to call. Seth, Carrie and I will take some time and chat with you. We can help you determine if therapy is necessary in this situation. We even offer teletherapy through a program that is a lot like Skype for California residents who live outside Orange County.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT