Empowering teens to make healthy choice

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Uncategorized


Published on November 03, 2010 with No Comments

By Harriet Fagan

“It’s like a parasite sucking up your life,” said a confident 16-year-old male.
The parasite to which he refers is his addiction to Internet pornography, a menace that seduces growing numbers of teens by feeding their natural sexual curiosity with readily available x- and triple x-rated images. Some 12 percent of all current Websites are pornographic, making 4.2 million pornographic sites available to draw even the most innocent of Web browsers into an online world of sadistic and unnatural sex.
Although its full impact has yet to be seen, Internet porn has had a significant influence on youth, the largest group of viewers being between the ages of 12 and 17. The images to which they are exposed are definitely not those seen in Playboy magazine. In fact, Playboy typically looks like a first-grade primer in comparison.

According to University of Chicago psychiatrist Sharon Hirsch, “They [young people] are seeing things that they’re really not emotionally prepared to see yet, which can cause them trauma.”
Possible consequences of frequent online porn visits include having sex at a younger age, more promiscuous sex, sexual deviancy, sexual offending and sexually compulsive behavior. Repeated exposure to such imagery can threaten intimacy with the opposite sex and affect a female’s self-image.
The young man quoted above is undergoing treatment for his addiction. Thanks to therapy, he now understands that his interest in such Web sites is driven by repressed anger unrelated to sex that could very well lead him to act out inappropriately.
He is very protective of his disabled sister, polite and attends a special drama school to hone his acting skills. His life holds promise, but an unchecked porn addiction could have seriously derailed it.
A 2007 survey revealed that 42 percent of Internet users aged 10 to 17 had seen online pornography within a 12-month span. Of those, 66 percent had not sought the images. Even though many parents have installed software to filter and block such exposure, it is not 100 percent effective.
The most innocent of searches can lead to a porn site. What seems to put viewers at highest risk for the unwanted exposure are file-sharing programs to download images. Limewire and Kazaa are particularly problematic applications.
Be sure all computers in your home are in easily viewable places, such as the family room or kitchen. Watch your child’s online behavior, look at the sites he is viewing and check the Internet History list on all computers. You will find a helpful guide to checking computers for porn at www.familysafemedia.com.
The most effective tool a parent has is direct conversations with their children regarding pornography and its possible influence on sexual behavior, attitudes about sex and relationships. Before you hold the initial conversation, however, determine if there is pornography of any kind in your home.
Do you or other adults view Internet or other porn videos or magazines or watch inappropriate movies at home? Your behaviors will always speak louder than your words. If you have porn in any form, discard it and do so effectively.
When you initiate the conversation with your child, listen in a nonjudgmental way and allow him to open up. Parent-child conversations regarding risky behaviors such as sex and pornography should be ongoing. If at any time you conclude that your child is struggling with pornography, take action. Arrange for him to meet with a certified counselor, pastor or qualified youth leader.
In general, be vigilant and understanding. Protecting your child from Internet pornography is comparable to inoculating him against any other invasive parasite.

Harriet Fagan is a freelance writer, wife, mother, grandmother and a former secondary teacher and writer for Valparaiso University. Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices is researched and written under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.) to help parents and teens navigate the ever-changing challenges of adolescence.

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About Harriet Fagan

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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