Many people are uncomfortable talking about pornography use and addiction in general, let alone as a problem that affects young teenagers and pre-teens. Unfortunately, regular pornography exposure is a real concern for adolescents and may put young people at risk for delinquent behavior and even teen porn addiction.
A 2005 study published in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior found that 12- to 18-year-olds who intentionally viewed pornography were more likely to have a past-year history of delinquent behavior and substance use. Those who used the Internet to find pornography (as opposed to other sources) were less likely to have developed strong emotional bonds with their parents or guardians and more likely to show symptoms of depression. However, this study also suggested that pornography viewing was not exploding among young teens and preteens as many feared it would as speedy, in-home Internet access became almost ubiquitous.
Porn Exposure May Not Be Growing as Quickly as Some Feared
The data for this study were taken from the Youth Internet Safety Survey, which used telephone interviews to gather information on 1,501 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. This data revealed that the vast majority (87%) of young people looking for pornographic material online are 14 years and older, when it is “developmentally appropriate” to show sexual curiosity. Only 5% of those who reported intentionally seeking out pornography were female.
These researchers concluded that concerns over rapidly increasing exposure to pornography among young people may be exaggerated. Nevertheless, the fact that adolescents who did view pornography were more likely to show delinquent behavior showed that this issue is still a cause for concern.
Survey Suggests Young Teens Concerned About Porn Addiction
A survey from the ChildLine service of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) also found some disturbing results when it came to adolescent pornography exposure. They found that 20% of the nearly 700 12- and 13-year-olds surveyed had seen pornographic imagery that shocked or upset them. They also found that 12% of these young people had participated in the making of an explicit video, and that one in five children believed that watching pornography was typical behavior. Finally, the survey results found around one in 10 of the young people surveyed were concerned that they may have become addicted to explicit content.
It is unlikely that anywhere near that many young people are genuinely addicted to sexually explicit material, but the fact that so many adolescents have expressed such a concern suggests that pornography is negatively impacting their lives and causing them to feel out of control. However, adolescent brain development tends to make young people more impulsive and less likely to make responsible decisions on the spur of the moment, which means that they do face a greater risk of addiction than most adults. As a result, concerns about adolescent pornography addiction certainly should not be discounted.
Childhood Exposure to Porn Can Negatively Impact Views on Sex
ChildLine has also gathered anecdotal evidence from young people who have contacted their counseling services, which suggests that pornography can have a disturbing impact on the way that they think about sex and about potential sexual partners. In particular, adolescent males often express concern that pornography is contributing to negative thoughts and attitudes about women.
Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded ChildLine, believes that the solution does not involve simply taking greater measures to shield young people from explicit material. Instead, she believes that adults have to talk to children openly about sex, respect and consent so that pornography does not become their primary source of information about acceptable behaviors and attitudes.