Pornography Addiction in Teens
By any standards, porn addiction is one of the most addictive drugs out there today. Unlike removing the substance from a drug addict, the sexual images of pornography are always within reach of the user’s memory. With easily accessible, and unlimited quantities, in light of smartphone and internet access, this habit is easier and cheaper to pick up than any substance abuse.
As a parent of a teen with porn addiction, the range of emotions you experience can be overwhelming if even suspected porn addiction in your child. Grief, shame, anger, and fear are all very real. Let’s look at some facts and information and get a handle on how to best address the issue of pornography addiction in teens, and set a course for recovery.
Amid brain development in children ages 10-13, neurons are forming at elevated rates, as some of the last gray matter growth periods before adulthood. By age 15 the brain is in full-swing producing dopamine, thus enabling the brain to register pleasure at four times the normal rate. Because the brain is still forming it can easily become wired in response to pornography exposure, resulting in lifelong consequences.
Warning Signs of Pornography Addiction
These typical symptoms of being hooked on pornography, in teens, may not all be present. It’s your job as a caregiver to be observant of any out-of-the-norm behaviors.
Sometimes pornography can be a default resulting from ‘not having anything else better to do’, which also shows a lack of self-motivation to constructive things in life, or a tendency towards complacency (self-satisfaction).
- General secrecy and large amounts of alone time
- Sexual aggression or age-inappropriate relationships
- Secretive behavior on devices such as cleared history and passwords
- Decline in school performance
- Decline in interest in peer interaction (or increase, depending on if they look at pornography with friends)
- Lying about the nature of romantic or sexual activities
- Lack of empathy towards others involved
- Excessive or non-existent interest in dating
Although there is no “official diagnosis” of porn addiction there are plenty of medical commentaries on the topic. Results of porn addiction may include:
- Unstable relationships with members of the opposite sex
- Impaired concentration
- Accompanying technology or gaming obsession
- Low motivation
- Depression (and/or easily depressed )
- Negative self-perception / Low self-esteem
- Sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction (ED)
The deciding factor of any situation, suspected or confirmed is going to be your reaction to it. Because the nature of addiction is to harbor shame for the addictive behavior, make sure you are able to step back and take a time out to think through your approach.
What to do (and not do) when your child may be viewing pornography.
One of the best ways to get in front of the eight ball is to culture a transparent relationship with your child from an early age. By addressing any issues you as a parent or caregiver have had in the past you can properly address porn viewing from a perspective of healing. However, if you’re here looking for information, this may be a step to start such a culture now. Remember “now” is not too late.
As stated, take a deep breath and think. Any kind of attacking behavior is going to push the activity into hiding and quite possibly make it worse. Avoid asking “Why would you do this?” or “How could you?” Obviously hurtful name calling such as “pervert” “sicko” or “disgusting” will only heap on the guilt and shame that comes from teens viewing pornography brings.
Address the topic from a relational point. By relating to your teen with conversation starters such as “When I was your age, I had questions about things like this too”, you can open up a dialogue in order to gain a better outlook. Was the child confronted with the porn in the first place? Are they being pressured by peers to view porn? Did they learn about it through natural curiosity?
When bringing up a sensitive topic as porn viewing you need to position yourself as the safe person to come to. We can do this perhaps by admitting that there may have been struggles with explicit material in your past as well. Asking more questions such as “Help me understand how this happened” can create a conversation where your child can open up.
Avoid overbearing punishment. By nature, punishment is punitive, where consequences are from love and discipline. Concentrate on encouraging conversation aimed at “journeying out this thing” with them.
What do I do now?
Depending on the age of the child your consequences may look different. If the child is very young, there needs to be a type of executive decision. If your children have access to smartphones, consider switching to a flip phone. Removing any devices from their room to a family area where the screen is easily monitored, installing filters for words and specific sites is also helpful. There are even means and settings for your home network to make all web-browsing family-safe.
If your child is older try to avoid smothering behavior by over-monitoring and analyzing everything. This will result in avoiding you and create distrust, causing the sneaky behaviors to continue.
Older children that have long term habits or deeper addictions may need additional measures in place to help break the cycle. At Lifeline For Youth, we help deal with the roots of the problem, which can often be loneliness, sadness, depression, frustration or boredom. By addressing these underlying issues, rather than the outcomes alone, the chances of healing are much more successful.
When having a professionally trained counselor help you the parent and the child identify triggers and temptations, together we can strategize and establish a course of action with proper guardrails to begin rekindling a healthy perspective.
With time and effort, pornography addictions can be overcome. If you have questions or need directions feel free to give the medical professionals at Lifeline For Youth a call today. Together there is hope.
Treatment for teen depression includes and depends on a support system that will teach your child how to overcome and prevent thinking that could lead to relapses. At Lifeline for Youth, we have a 97% satisfaction rate with our teens and their families.