“Internet sex as the “crack cocaine” of sexual compulsivity”
– Al Cooper Ph.D.
Are teens looking at internet porn really a big deal? Many parents will write off their teen’s internet porn habit as a normal response to increasing hormones and a curiosity about sex. The truth is, though, an internet porn addiction during adolescence can have a lasting, negative impact on your teen during their adulthood. Here are four reasons you should be concerns about your teen watching internet porn:
Teens are more likely to become addicted to pornography. Teen brains are more sensitive to thrills, thanks to an overall increased sensitivity to the dopamine being released in their brain and the increased spikes in dopamine levels. Dopamine is the chemical our brain releases when we feel pleasure, and that dopamine release is addictive–and it is far more addictive in the teenage brain. So when your teen first looks at pornography and gets a flood of dopamine in their brain, they are more likely to become addicted to the feeling and start chasing bigger and bigger “highs” by watching more and more extreme pornography.
Teens can become desensitized to the things they see online. While at first simply seeing naked men or women can be enough for teens, it doesn’t usually stay that way. Maybe back in the days when all that was available was a magazine or a VHS, exposure to sexual images was limited. Not anymore. Due to the availability of online porn, younger and younger children are exposed to sexual imagery, 24/7, 365/year. If not from their own devices , children and teens can view pornography from their friends’ devices. As teen become addicted and start watching pornography, they become desensitized to the charged scenes they see online, just as adults do. Teens as a result will start watching more and more porn–sometimes hours a day–trying to find that original high.
Teens have a hard time stopping themselves. If you’ve lived, or known a teenager, you know that their impulse control is weak. Unfortunately, that is a biological and evolutionary control that many teens can’t help but follow. Because of it, teens have a hard time stopping their own additions to junk food, video games, or internet porn. Most of them will need help breaking the addiction.
The behaviors they set now will impact the rest of their lives. The connections you use most in your brain are the ones that survive the neurological “pruning” that happens in our brain post-adolescence. Our brains start cutting back on the unused neurological connections and strengthening the ones that we’ve used the most. Simply put, the behaviors we set in our teenage years are likely the ones we’ll use as adults. So if you participate in sports and love to read, you’ll probably keep doing those things as an adult. If you are watching hours of pornography as a teen, you’ll probably continue that behavior as an adult without therapy to help you rewire those connections in your brain.