Is the typical profile of a juvenile sexual offender changing
as a result of exposure to the ease of access to sexually explicit material? While
research in this area is lacking, some researchers are suggesting it may play a
role. Among those is Dr. Michael Seto, whose results from a 2011 study suggest that
more consideration needs to be given to the variables of exposure to sexual
violence, exposure to sex or pornography in teen sexual offending behaviors.
Juvenile sexual offenders have often been stereotyped as
socially incompetent, lacking social skills and unable to read non-verbal cues
from their peers. While social ineptness
may very well be a characteristic of some teens committing sexual offenses,
there is increasing reason to consider how the onslaught of sexually explicit
media contributes to sexual offending among youth.
In today’s technology
and internet driven society, opportunities for children and teens to access explicit
sexual material and even sexual encounters is more plentiful than at any other
time in history. As a result there been an increase in wreckless and illegal
sexual behavior. Behaviors such as frequent
use of pornography, involvement in
explicit sexual chats, sexting through new apps such as Vine and Snapchat, and solicitation
of sex through social media are becoming increasingly common. Obviously, the internet makes these
activities easy to engage in. Other variables
also play into the increase in these behaviors among teens including the perception
that “everyone is doing it”, the belief that they are acting under the cover of
anonymity, and lack of immediate consequences for these actions.
Some teens who commit sex offenses are otherwise law-abiding
citizens, who don’t display anti-social or pedophilic tendencies and who do not
display any significant social skill deficit.
Many of these teens may not have ever crossed the line to commit illegal
sexual acts were it not for exposure to sexually explicit content via the
Of course, none of this makes it okay or excusable to commit
a sexual offense. A sex offense is a serious
crime because there is a potential victim involved - and the possibility that
someone is harmed. That being said, for
teens who commit a sexual offense, more than ever before, the variable of internet
driven sexual content as a primary factor for the sex offense should be
considered. In cases where it is a factor, the standard
treatment models for sex offending may not be a complete model.
While the hard research is still lacking in this area, teen
sexual offending and the use of sexually explicit internet content appears to
be a growing and dangerous relationship.
Unfortunately, many juvenile sex offender treatment assessments and
programs lack any significant attention to pornography and sexual addiction
issues. Programs and clinicians working
with juvenile sexual offenders should give increased attention to the role that
pornography and cybersex plays in teen sexual acting out. Treatment models need to be augmented to
provide specific intervention for pornography and cybersexual addiction.