Does teen porn addiction disrupt normal adolescent development?

For many years, religious organizations were at the forefront of championing the cause of vilifying pornography and suggesting that its influence was immoral and destructive.  This has led to the erroneous belief among many, that pornography use is a “moral” or a “religious issue’.  While it is clear that pornography can be highly destructive to one’s spirituality and morality, increasing evidence suggests that pornography can be disruptive to child and teen development in a variety of areas.

The paradigm regarding pornography use, particularly its impact on children and teens, needs to shift toward the problem not simply being a moral issue, but rather a developmental issue with potential long-lasting negative consequences.

The following are noted characteristics that have been found in teens who have developed a habit of regularly viewing pornography:

• Viewing and/or masturbating to internet pornography on a daily basis.

Staying up late at night to be alone to view pornography and then having trouble waking up for school.

• Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities.

• Diminished interest in socialization and outside activity with peers including dating.

• Secrecy with behavior, particularly with technology, and increased isolation including long periods of time alone in their bedroom with the door locked.

• Pattern of lying to parents and other adults about on-line activities including deleting browser history, viruses on computers, etc.

• A diminished empathy toward others and lack of interest in family activities.

• Development of hypersexual attitude, language and possible sexually inappropriate interests.

Each of these characteristics along with a host of other unmentioned characteristics impede the developmental process of youth who become addicted to pornography.  Those youth who become addicted to pornography are typically unable to break free from the addiction on their own.  In many cases, the addiction is kept secret and continues into adulthood and eventually becomes a contributor to depression, marital problems and legal problems.

The good news is that youth who become addicted and get help, are able to break free from the addiction.

Viewing the problem as a developmental issue, rather than simply a moral issue is an important first step.  Educating parents and professionals about the importance of screening for possible addiction comes next. Then, developing and implementing treatment options specific to children and teens who have become addicted becomes the focus.