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Rise of the Internet Created a New Generation of Teen Porn Addiction

Teen covering porn on computer screen with his hand  

Unfortunately, with the rise of teen internet addiction, there’s another potentially troubling trend, which is teen porn addiction. A professor and activist named Dr. Gail Dines has recently described the addiction to the internet and mobile devices as well as pornography as a “public health emergency.” She started Culture Reframed, a non-profit organization, to address the issue. Culture Reframed works to educate parents on how to help their children learn about handling porn addiction.

According to Dr. Dines, society needs to make a collective response to the generation she says is being “raised on porn.” She said hardcore porn is free, accessible and anonymous, which are factors driving demand, including among young people.

The Rise of the Internet

Researchers believe teenage internet addiction showcases many of the same signs and effects of addiction to substances. For example, teenagers may turn to smartphones and internet-enabled devices to numb themselves from what’s going on around them, which is also a reason teens frequently turn to substances. However, treating this kind of addiction can be more challenging than treating substance addiction, because essentially everyone has to access to the internet and digital world to function in modern society.

Digital addictions aren’t currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and there’s some debate as to whether or not they should be. Dr. Anna Lembke, who serves as a Stanford University psychiatrist and an assistant professor of addiction medicine, told NPR that she sees the classic patterns of addiction in people who compulsively use the internet. She told NPR that addiction begins with occasional use and then moves to recreational use. That then turns into daily use and ultimately use that creates consequences in someone’s life, and yet they continue to use anyway.

Some scanning studies have looked at the brains of people who are online. Researchers have found in some cases, the reward pathway activation in the brain is similar to what’s seen when people have a substance use disorder.

Internet Access Led Many Teens to Porn Addiction

With the rise of internet access, more teens may be accessing porn. For example, there was a study called The Porn Phenomenon that looked at trends of teens’ access to porn. The study found that among teens and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24, only around 32% feel viewing porn is wrong. One in three Americans seek out porn at least once a month and between 6-12% of people who are 13 and older view porn daily. Fourteen to 21% view it weekly.

Separately, the University of Nebraska Lincoln cited research showing the younger someone is at their first porn exposure, the greater their porn consumption may be.

One of the big problems with accessing porn as a teen is the fact that it can lead to a dependence on it for sexual development, yet porn is not a good place to learn about healthy sexual behaviors. Pornography can alter a young person’s view of what sex should be, and it can lead to self-esteem problems or alter perceptions of respect and consent.

Signs of Teenage Porn Addiction

As a parent, the following are possible signs of porn addiction in teens that might be a red flag to have a conversation:

  • Isolation or staying up late at night online
  • Trying to keep porn viewing a secret
  • Being unable to stop viewing porn
  • Denial or anger when confronted
  • Continuing to view porn even when there are consequences of doing so
  • Depression, anger or changes in mood and behavior
  • Hypersexual behaviors or vocabulary
  • Being protective or guarded regarding devices

With so many teens having access to porn, parents should be aware of what the effects of viewing it at an early age can be as well as how to recognize the red flags that a problem may exist.

Sources:

Allen, Ginger. “Smart Phones, Computers Creating Generation of Porn Addicts; Some States Call It Public Health Emergency.” CBS DFW, September 25, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2019.

The University of Nebraska Lincoln. “Age and Experience of First Exposure to Pornography: Relations to Masculine Norms.” Accessed November 3, 2019.

Barna Group. “Porn in the Digital Age: New Research Reveals 10 Trends.” April 6, 2016. Accessed November 3, 2019.

McClurg, Lesley. “Is ‘Internet Addiction’ Real?” NPR, May 18, 2017. Accessed November 3, 2019.

Auerbach, Dalia. “How Pornography Affects the Teen Brain.” Parentology, July 8, 2019. Accessed November 3, 2019.

Therapy Associates. “Navigating Pornography Addiction: A Guide For Parents.” 2013. Accessed November 3, 2019.

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