Pornography hurts adults, children, couples, families, and society. Among adolescents, pornography hinders the development of a healthy sexuality, and among adults, it distorts sexual attitudes and social realities. In families, pornography use leads to marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation, and divorce. (source)

Porn is something that we are reluctant to talk about. It makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about it because it’s embarrassing. Or it’s embarrassing to our children. But, with the prevalence of porn and the ease with which kids can access it, these are conversations we must have in order to protect our children.

The statistics are sobering. Here are a few:

  • Bark, a watchdog group founded to help kids stay safe on the Internet, stated in a January 2021 article that there are currently at least 4.5 million porn sites.
  • Bark also claims that “70.7% of tweens and 84.0% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature online.”
  • As of February 2021, two porn sites placed in the top 10 Internet sites accessed around the world. A third (Pornhub) ranked at 13.
  • According to Fight the New Drug, a website created to help people see the dangers of porn, Pornhub recorded that users watched 5,824,699,200 hours of porn in 2019.
  • Pornhub had more than 42,000,000,000 site visits in 2019.
  • Every minute, almost 220,000 views were added to Pornhub videos in 2019. That is 13,199,100 video views every hour. That’s more than 316,778,400 videos every day.
  • Fight the New Drug also found that every minute, 11,082 hours of porn are being watched. That equates to 15,958,080 hours of pornographic videos watched every day.
  • In 2020, Pornhub reported a 24% increase in traffic. This was likely a result of people spending more time at home because of the pandemic.
  • And while it’s predominantly males who watch (70% male), females watch porn as well (30%).

There’s no denying that porn is easy to find. There’s no denying that people are watching. And there’s no denying its dangers.

It’s not difficult to see how easily accessible porn is for children and teens. If kids don’t go looking for it, it often comes to them. Internet pop-ups and spam e-mails are just two ways that unsuspecting kids can stumble upon pornographic images. And a mistype on an Internet search can be the difference between an innocent site and one laden with porn.

Porn affects children of all ages. Even young children are not immune. US statistics show:

  • The average age of a child’s first exposure to porn is before the age of 11.
  • Of people younger than 18, children under the age of 10 account for 22% of those watching online porn.

According to 2020 research by the British Board of Film Classification, 51% of 11- to 13-year-olds in the UK have been exposed to porn. Sixty-six percent of 14- to 15-year-olds have been exposed. And 79% of 16- to 17-year-olds have been exposed.

infographic: teen porn usage statistics

Infographic courtesy of the Family and Youth Institute

Those are disturbing percentages. And ones we can’t turn a blind eye to.

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Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the process by which a brain creates new neural networks. It does this by reorganizing itself on a consistent basis.

According to Psychology Today:

Between the ages of 12 and 20, the human brain undergoes a period of great neuroplasticity. The brain is in a malleable phase during which billions of new synaptic connections are made. This leaves us vulnerable to the influence of our surroundings and leads our brains to be “wired” around the experiences and information that we receive during that time period.

A brain, especially the growing brain of an adolescent, is constantly attempting to improve its performance. This means that any experiences our children face will shape them and help develop both their social and moral character. When children repeatedly watch porn, they begin to see the world differently.

What does porn do to a malleable brain?

According to a New Zealand newspaper:

For young people of all genders and sexualities there are links between regular engagement with porn and earlier sexual debut, an increased likelihood to hold more permissive attitudes towards sexual activity, less progressive attitudes to gender roles, an increase in sexual preoccupancy, lower sexual satisfaction with partners, and an escalation in body surveillance.

In other words, porn affects brain development. It affects personality development. It affects current and future relationships. It affects body image. And it destroys a child’s innocence.

neurons or nerve cells in the brain

Furthermore, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality. Repeated watching of pornography will cause children (and adults) to believe that what they see on TV or on the Internet is normal. They’ll come to believe that it’s acceptable to have sex whenever they want and with whomever they want. They begin to shirk the idea of a relationship. Porn teaches kids that sex can be detached from a relationship, from any meaning, from responsibility, and from intimacy. It teaches that sex is something where two people use each other for fun rather than as an expression of love.

And though the men and women starring in pornographic films have surgically enhanced bodies, many kids are not aware of this. They begin to think that this is how people look and act. A 2016 survey in the UK found that, “despite the fact that porn can be wildly unrealistic and often glorifies violence, sexism, or racism…over half of boys (53%) and over a third of girls (39%) reported believing that pornography was a realistic depiction of sex.”

Kids watching porn come to believe that what they see on the screen is reality. They think that’s how others should look. And they think that is how they themselves should look. Kids start to feel shame and embarrassment for any blemish, any extra ounce of fat, or any imperfection on their own bodies.

Further, pornography often depicts women enjoying degrading sexual encounters. When boys repeatedly watch this, they become desensitized to the violence. They may even actually come to believe that women want to be raped and abused. A recent study found that “exposure to pornography results in a hyper-sexual view of the world. The subjects tended to have a high rate of devaluing marriage; they are twice as likely to believe that marriage is unimportant.”

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And it’s not just real-life porn that depicts violence. Porn comes in animated form too. An example of this is “hentai” porn (hentai is Japanese for perverse sexual desire). This animated porn contains giant bugs with tentacles, monsters, and animated women who are a mix of women and young girls. According to Fight the New Drug, “It is common for monsters, animals, giant insects, and plants to rape cartoon women.”

Those who watch this type of porn may justify it because it’s animated. Many even think it’s funny. They claim it’s not as bad as watching real porn since it’s make-believe. But we know this is a lie.

Further Dangers of Porn

In addition to this skewed worldview and desensitization, children put themselves at risk for unwanted sexual solicitation when they visit sites offering pornography. According to Psych Central, “One in 7 teens reported having been subjected to unwanted provocations—the majority of which involved invitations to meet offline, asking teens to talk about sex or answer sexual questions, or asking teens for sexually explicit photos.”

Sexting is another danger our kids face. Sexting involves the sending of explicit photos via text. Kids may think this is fun. Maybe they feel peer pressure to do this. But they often forget that once they send a picture, it’s gone forever. Anyone has access to it; anyone can screenshot it; anyone can keep it and continue to send it. This can result in great embarrassment and damaged reputations. It can even have far-reaching consequences, as it can affect scholarships and college applications. And it can result in child pornography charges.

Internet Safety 101, the “leading Internet safety organization” in the US, reports that by the age of 13, 40% of children have either sent or received a sext. It further reports:

A survey of almost 4,000 children aged between eight and thirteen has found: 43% are speaking to strangers online, with a third of them speaking to strangers every day or at least once a week. A high proportion of boys, including 36% of 8-year-old boys and 43% of 10-year-old boys, are playing over-18s games and being exposed to violent and sexual content that is not appropriate for their age.

These statistics are truly scary. When we allow our children to surf the Internet, we are opening a whole new world to them.

Signs That Your Child May Be Watching Porn

So how do you know if your child is watching porn? There are several warning signs.

teenage girl on her phone in a coffee shop, teen porn addiction

It’s important to watch for changes in your child’s behavior. Has he suddenly lost interest in spending time with friends? Does she spend more time than usual in her room? Has he become moody or depressed?

You may notice your child being more secretive than normal, especially when it comes to phone or computer usage. He may spend more time in the bathroom where he feels safe behind a locked door. He may quickly change web pages when you walk up behind him.

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In addition, you may notice that your child now seems to know more about sex. He may use inappropriate terms. He may even begin to draw graphic pictures.

If you suspect that your child is watching porn, check his browser history. Though most kids have learned how to clear the history, many clear the whole history rather than just the porn site. You can tell if the history has recently been cleared. If you notice that everything is often cleared, you might want to question your child.

Some software will allow you to see recently deleted browsing history. And there are filters you can install on computers that will block certain sites.

How Do I Talk to My Child?

If you believe that your child is viewing porn, talk with him calmly. Do not attack him. Remind your child that you love him and want what’s best for him. Offer your support and understanding. Encourage him to ask questions.

Oftentimes kids will feel a huge sense of relief to talk about it (after the initial awkwardness). If they know you are there to help and not punish, they will be more likely to open up. Do not shame or belittle your child. This will only work to push him further away. You want your child to trust you, so you must facilitate that trust.

Help your child explore healthy ways of meeting any emotional needs. Explain the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. Talk about God’s plan for our bodies.

If you feel that the problem is too big for you to handle, seek professional help.

Concluding Thoughts

Our bodies were fearfully and wonderfully made by God in His image and likeness. He gave us our sexuality as a gift. This is a gift we should not give to just anyone. If we do not explain this to our children, no one will. They will become swallowed up by a society that cares more about pleasure than about our children’s souls.

dad kissing his little girl

HLI’s Fr. Boquet has called us to take action against porn sites: “Shut down every…site that peddles such hateful products and that profits from the degradation of women (and men), the addiction of children, and the debasement of our public discourse. Freedom demands it.”

Indeed. True freedom does not involve being shackled to a porn site. True freedom does not involve violence. It does not involve the abuse of the human body. Freedom comes when you break the chains of addiction.

Porn sites do nothing but harm the men, women, and children who watch. That is why, as parents, we must set a good example. We must be vigilant. And we must communicate frequently with our children about the dangers they face today. Our children’s souls are our responsibility.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Anna on April 13, 2021 at 3:53 PM

    We live in a scary world! Thank you for this informative article. We have to work hard to take care of our children and to keep them out of the clutches of life’s evils.

  2. Avatar Buddy on April 15, 2021 at 2:17 PM

    The tremendous weakness of humanity is sinful curiosity. For example, I just want to see what this site is all about or I don’t want to stay on this site a long time but just take a glimpse of what they are doing or just a quick peek at this site will not hurt anybody. Just a quick look leaves an impure image that will stay imprinted on our brains for a long time, maybe forever.

  3. Avatar Fr. Samuel Gatimu on April 21, 2021 at 3:33 AM

    Thank you for the article. Porn industry is being utilized by sexual revolutionists to pervert the society. We are called to publicize the evil intentions their spear head. Am pleased to see such an article, hope it reaches a great population.

  4. Avatar Hannah on April 21, 2021 at 11:37 PM

    Thank you for sharing. You have raised very pertinent concerns. It calls for parents to be vigilant and keen observers of children of whatever age who are exposed to uncensored internet use.
    This is another global addiction that is going to escalate as our children continue to go online. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to draw boundaries between positive use of internet to study online and deviating to porn sites because of the prompts.

    I totally agree that it’s time parents adapted unconditioal positive regard by empathizing with their children instead of being confrontational.

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