Pornography Addiction: the impact on today's youth and families

As professional therapists working with youth, we are learning more each day about the impact that pornography use has on the rising generation.  The unfortunate and stark reality is that more teens than ever before are finding themselves addicted to internet pornography and are unable to break the addiction on their own.   Research indicates that 90% of eight to sixteen-year-olds have viewed porn and the average age for a child to first be exposed to pornography on the internet is 11-years-old.  It doesn’t stop with viewing pornography,  greater numbers of teens are becoming involved in cyber-sexual activities.  Cybersex addiction is the compulsive use of Internet pornography, on-line sexual dialogue, arranged hook-ups and on-line role playing that interferes with real life relationships.

According to data gathered at the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) 40 million Americans visit porn sites every month, and the gender prevalence of males versus females with cybersex issues is 60%-40% respectively. This data carries with it a heavy impact on families as increasing numbers of teens and young adults are among those regularly viewing pornography.

Some of these youth have been victims themselves of parental neglect as a result of one of their parent’s use of porn.   Some have become enlisted in parental and marital conflict as a result of their parents’ marital problems and custody conflicts resulting from porn, cyber-sexual affairs and infidelity.  Some have been exposed to pornography they first found on a parents laptop or smart phone which planted the seeds for the formation of their own addictions.

Listed below are two dangerous trends that we have increasingly noted in teen thinking which we believe are the result of chronic exposure to pornography in an over-sexualized culture:

1.       Many teens are being groomed to believe that being sexually active is normal, because of their exposure to cybersex.

2.       It's now common for oral sex to be seen as the new goodnight kiss and for girls to send sexual photos of themselves via cell phones to boys as special gifts.

Because of these and other alarming trends in teen thinking pertaining to sexuality, mental health clinicians are scrambling to develop programs and treatment methods for helping porn addicted teens overcome the addiction and re-align their distorted perception to healthy sexuality.  Among these programs include the Youth Pornography Addiction Center  and its affiliates STAR Guides Wilderness, STAR Guides outpatient network and Mending The Armor.