Fort Worth, Texas,
31
July
2015
|
08:27 PM
America/Chicago

Think your 10 year old’s not watching porn? Think again.

Has children viewing pornography become a ‘public health crisis?’

Studies show that 90 percent of boys have looked at porn. No surprise, right?

But it’s the age when children began to look at pornography that may shock and concern you. Years ago, the accessibility to pornography was only on the home desktop computer that was monitored, but now, everyone in the house has a laptop, iPad and a smart phone. With children getting phones at a young age, they have access, away from the watchful eyes of their parents. So the temptation is now accessible.

Ernie Allen, former president and CEO of the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, says the average age of U.S. children exposed to pornography is 12 years old and that one in three 10 year olds view porn.

Allen joined other health experts to speak in front of congressional staff members recently in Washington, D.C. to discuss children and Internet pornography, calling this issue a “public health crisis.”

Lisa Elliott, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and clinic manager of Behavioral Health for Cook Children’s in Denton, agrees with this assessment.

Elliott and her colleagues see children 10, and even younger struggle, with porn addiction. She says porn is so accessible with the Internet that it’s easy for children to view it with little preventing them from seeing it. She says some studies claim that pornography releases the same chemicals in the brain as cocaine addiction, making it one of the hardest to overcome.

“Kids can’t handle what they are seeing,” Elliott said. “It sends such a horrible message about the value of people and what a loving relationship truly is. Their frontal lobe has not developed enough to comprehend what they are viewing and it sends confusing messages on intimacy and what love truly is. Kids then have a hard time distinguishing what is healthy vs. what is not.”

Things have come a long way since the days of a son hiding his dad’s discarded Playboy under the bed or watching a teen flick on one of the movie channels. The Internet allows for quick and easy access to a whole new world of porn, including violent and dangerous acts that can do harm to a person.

“Kids are going to be curious,” Elliott said. “It’s important for parents to talk to their children about what’s healthy and developmentally appropriate for kids their age. It’s uncomfortable for some, but it’s a good idea to sit down with your children and talk to them about sex and healthy relationships. Parents should watch for the signs of what crosses boundaries and educate their kids too on what is out there and how harmful it can be. With my own children, I keep that dialogue going at all times and I’m not afraid to ask them very direct questions.”

So what are the symptoms of a child addicted to porn? Elliott said parents should watch for:

  1. Children may isolate themselves from their parents and spend a lot of time in their bedroom or bathroom.
  2. Evidence of pornography on their hard drive or web browser.
  3. Clearing their history on their phone, tablet or computer.
  4. Appears tearful, sullen.
  5. Sleep disturbance with either falling asleep, staying asleep or exhaustion.

Elliott says the combination of children becoming desensitized to porn and the accessibility of social media can make for a scary combination, leading to a lack of inhibition and self-control. Elliott said the casual attitude about porn can lead some children to lack the ability to recognize long-term consequences with texting and sexting, Snap Chat, Vine, Facebook, Kik and ChatRoulette.

“Porn exposure can lead to desensitization just like exposure to violence has,” Elliott said. “When our children are exposed to these negative elements they begin to see that behavior is acceptable and normal. Frequent exposure to viewing violence has been shown to normalize that for kids as well as increasing trends in bullying and behaving violently as a way to solve problems. The concern is that children will grow up believing that pornography is normal, routine and that way relationships are, not to mention teaching them to exploit others.”

In a presentation she gives to parents, Elliott gives these numbers:

  • Up to 39 percent of teens admit to sexting.
  • Fifty-one percent of teen girls feel pressure to take and send explicit photos.
  • Twenty-two percent of teen girls and 20 percent of teen boys send nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.

 

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