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Teenagers Watching Porn: What Should We Do?

Posted in Sexual Health 09 Jun, 2015

The easy access teenagers have to online porn is a recent development, but one that's here to stay. The all-conquering internet is a firmly ingrained benefit of our daily lives, but it has brought with it issues that society has not dealt with before. We have not kept pace with the internet, and that's to the detriment of our children.

24-Hour Porn

Online porn is always available because it's not possible to switch the internet off. Even if the main household PC is closed down most family members have a tablet or phone with internet access.

Why is it a Problem?

Online porn is more graphic than Playboy or a copy of The Joy of Sex. Video porn is violent, often degrading. Modern teenagers think this porn represents normal sex, and such a skewed view is not healthy. GPs report that teenage girls are making appointments for sex-related injuries. Damage from frequent anal sex, depression from doing things they don't want to do, or being bullied because they don't do it.

Frequent viewing leads to emotional and sexual development that is influenced by porn, such as a belief that women are sexually subservient, and that sex is violent. Later in life when faced with real relationships, some young adults just don't know how to behave, they avoid relationships and seek help from GPs and counsellors.

What Can We Do About It?

1. Opt-out Internet Controls

Research shows that children as young as 9 have accessed online porn, so controls are a good idea for younger children who stumble across adult sites by accident, but for teenagers there's always a friend's house, public computers, mobile devices. Often teenagers can bypass any parental control. Unfortunately for society they have the edge, having grown up with the internet. In any case, banning something just makes it more alluring. Years ago it was smoking. Opting out of online porn sites gives the impression that sex is secretive and wrong. Wouldn't it be better to give them some information? Which leads us nicely to...

2. Sex Education

Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) needs to up its game. Internet porn is not going away. We need to teach our teenagers that porn is adult entertainment and not a learning tool.

We teach our children about strangers, bullying, and the biological side of sex, but we don't yet teach them enough about the realities of sexual images, rape myths, sexual consent and issues surrounding online pornography. Some argue this should be taught in secondary schools as part of the curriculum, alongside healthy relationships, supportive partnerships and mutual respect modules.

Alongside our teenagers' education, parents also need to be made aware of the issues. A parent may not know that online porn is damaging their child, they need education and support too. This problem wasn't around when most parents were at school, and it's not an easy one to approach.

Ignoring the effect online porn has on our teenagers is only creating future problems. School curriculums need to address current trends, not those of 20 years ago simply because the PTA don't want to believe teenagers watch porn.

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