Culture Reframed understands how daunting it is to raise teens in a culture that normalizes hypersexualized media and porn. Here are four guidelines that can be successful in building teens’ resilience and resistance to these images. They are:
- Open and regular communication that encourages questions and supportive conversations, rather than shaming or blaming.
- An awareness of the harms of hypersexualized images and porn on teens’ emotional, cognitive and sexual development.
- An understanding of how porn shapes and influences the broader culture.
- Reducing teens’ access to hypersexualized media and porn by directing kids toward healthy friendships, and activities that build peer communities.
Ongoing conversations are essential to teens’ ability to critically analyze the images they consume. Conversation starters include:
- Pornography doesn’t represent “real sex.”
- Porn can trigger a range of feelings: curiosity, confusion, disgust, arousal, and guilt.
- Porn often depicts a power imbalance in which women are the object of degradation and violence.
- Just because something is arousing or pleasurable doesn’t mean it is good for teens.
- You can’t unsee pornography.
- Porn does not portray emotional intimacy, connection, and sensuality — qualities that are central to healthy sexuality.
Pornography and the Adolescent Brain
Throughout adolescence, young people go through enormous social, cognitive, biological, and psychological changes. Anything that interrupts healthy development can result in young people being more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Studies show that youthful porn consumers experience:
- higher incidence of depressive symptoms
- reduced ability to interact in social situations
- trouble in bonding with emotional caregivers
- increases in behavioral problems
- higher levels of delinquent behavior
- increased levels of sexual aggression
- low self-esteem and poor body image
- increased likelihood of emotional, social, and sexual problems in adult life
Problematic or compulsive porn use also has been shown to impact academic performance, diminish working memory, interfere with decision-making, and increase addictive behaviors. The adolescent brain is highly impressionable and vulnerable to forming patterns of behavior. Adolescents’ developmental vulnerabilities, combined with rushes of neurochemicals during arousal and orgasm to pornography, results in a rewiring of the brain. While addiction is more common in young men than young women, studies show it can impact both.
One-third of frequent users admit that they watch pornography more than they want to. Access the research.
Teens who are accessing pornography may not display any warning signs. However, if they do, things to look out for include:
- Withdrawing from activities
- Shutting down devices suddenly
- Displaying noticeable changes in language, demeanor or behaviors
- Having nightmares, wetting the bed, or experiencing similar ‘trauma’-induced symptoms
- Spending long periods of time in the bathroom, toilet or shower
- Laughing or minimising rape or other sexual harms
- Exhibiting signs of depression and/or anxiety
Learning that your teen may be negatively impacted by pornography can be disturbing and upsetting. Access the COMPOSE Yourself! model and learn key strategies to navigate this journey.
Culture Reframed Parents Program: provides a complete best-practice toolkit, which gives parents skills and knowledge to raise porn-resilient kids.
Learning Resources: a comprehensive list by Culture Reframed, including books and an extensive video list.
Online Porn: Advice on how to talk to your child about the risks of online porn and sexually explicit material provided from NSPCC in the UK.
Healthy sexual behaviour in children and young people: Your guide to keeping children safe, spotting warning signs and what to do if you’re concerned.
The Reward Foundation: Love, sex and the Internet.
Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction. This website provides the latest research findings as well as information for those addicted.
Resources for Teens
Teens searching for general information about porn can find information on these sites.
Online Porn: From Childline in the UK, this page is for young people age 12 and up.
Sex. Relationships. The Internet: From Think U Know in the UK, this site offers practical insight for teens 14+.
Porn: what science says: From Think U Know in the UK, this page is aimed at teens 14+.
Sex & U: A leading resource on sexual and reproductive health.
The porn industry targets children and young people, aiming to create a new generation of those hooked on pornography. If your teen is struggling, it’s important that they know they are not alone. Some helpful platforms and online resources are listed below.
Fortify Program is the perfect tool to help change behavior. Free for youth aged 13-20, the Fortify Program will walk you through more than fifty short videos that cover the science of addiction, the harms of pornography, tools to help you break free, and other helpful information so that you can be empowered to overcome your struggle with pornography. This service is also available for anyone over 21 years of age for a $39 one-time fee. Fortify Program is brought to you by Fight the New Drug
No Fap: Get a new grip on life. A secular porn recovery community website for all those affected by porn. Whether you have a porn addiction yourself or just need support as a partner, parent, or loved one of somebody struggling with pornography, this community will support you.
Reboot Nation helps people reboot their brains with encouragement and education. Reboot is a complete rest from artificial sexual stimulation (i.e., pornography). They are a community of people who have discovered the negative effects of pornography. Reboot Nation provides many resources and information to equip you with the tools necessary to start recovering today and become more aware of the potential harm caused by porn. Also check out Gabe Deem’s YouTube Channel
Addicted to Internet Porn: Have you been harmed by your porn usage habits? Learn how it can cause sexual and emotional dysfunction and how to recover. Coaching available by Noah Church, along with an informative YouTube Channel
There are a growing number of filtering and accountability software platforms to block access to online pornography. At Culture Reframed, we advise that filtering and monitoring apps should always be accompanied with open conversations with your teens, so that they develop their own ability to critically analyze porn and become porn-resilient kids.
Popular prevention tools include:
- Safe Surfer Supporting Online Safety
- Net Nanny
- Qustodio Parental Control
- Content Barrier by Intego
- McAfee Safe Family
- Norton Family Premiere
- OpenDNS Home VIP
- PureSight Multi
- Witigo Parental Filter
These are just some of the many platforms available. Listing them here does not constitute an endorsement by Culture Reframed. Take the time to investigate which filters and monitoring apps are right for your family.
The video clips below are great conversation starters. We recommend watching them first in order to identify those best suited to your teen’s developmental level and needs.
Is free pornography altering our brains?
Kids today are watching porn like never before. It’s free, anonymous, accessible, and it’s having a devastating effect on users’ brains.
This episode (at right) of New Zealand TV3 current affairs program 3D includes discussions with former porn addict Gabe Deem; sexuality educator and Culture Reframed Director of Health Education Liz Walker; and scientist Dr. Donald Hilton.
HOW DO I RESPOND WHEN MY TEEN SEES OR IS USING PORNOGRAPHY?
Culture Reframed has developed a model to help parents respond well when they discover their young person has viewed pornography. Access the COMPOSE Yourself! model and learn key strategies to navigate this journey.