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The Growing Epidemic of Children Addicted to Internet Porn

Pornography has been the bane of many American communities for decades. With the advent of the Internet the problem has become exacerbated. Most parents are aware of the dangers of pedophiles, but other dangers lurk online that are just as potentially damaging to children—especially children between the ages of 8 to 12 years old.

Internet pornography has destroyed careers, broken up marriages and led to financial ruin … and those are just the downsides for adults who became addicted. Now a growing trend has emerged of addicted children—kids as young as 8 years old—who have become exposed and addicted to pornography.

Although the trend only surfaced a handful of years ago, research has already been done that draws very ominous conclusions. What has become apparent is the fact that if this new addiction among children is not addressed and quickly halted it can not only destroy the child’s life, but destroy the American culture and society as well.

This article will present a very brief synopsis of the efforts of some of the people leading the charge to counteract this trend towards self-abasement, destruction and ruined lives. From learned psychologists and family counselors to esteemed neurologists and the clergy, the lines have been drawn and the battle is beginning for the hearts an minds of America’s children—not to mention their souls.

Addictions are an insidious thing and often involve an insidious process. Neurological studies of children who have become addicted to Internet porn (including brain scans) has revealed that the physiological changes in the brain of a porn addict almost exactly match those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Addictions change the physiology of the brain. An addiction especially has a deep impact on those brains between the ages of 8 to 12 that are still developing. This is the latest demographic group now becoming exposed and immersed to “sexting” (sexual flirting via text messages), user group “orgies” and triple X-rated pornography sites on the Web.

The origins

Dr. Kimberly Young was the first to research and address the Internet addiction that began emerging in the mid-1990s. In 1996 she presented her paper, “Internet Addiction: The Emergence of a New Disorder” at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference held in Toronto, Canada.

Since that landmark presentation, Internet addiction has spread across the world to countries and cultures as diverse as Australia, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Korea, Pakistan and Taiwan. Even Iran has faced the growing health concern of Internet addiction!

Stanford University’s School of Medicine has estimated that 1 in 8 Americans exhibit telltale signs of Internet addiction. Addiction affects both adults and children. For adults it runs the gamut from gaming sites and chat groups to pornography websites.

For almost a decade, addiction amongst children was rare. Those that were discovered to be addicted to the Internet were mostly addicted to chat groups and game sites. That all changed about 2005. Two trends began almost concurrently: explicit sexual behavior over the Internet involving chat groups, web cams and pornography sites, and sexting (overt, explicit sexual text messaging and transmission of nude photographs and sexual acts) amongst friends and sometimes complete strangers.

The dangers from pedophiles was obvious. But as experts dug deeper into this rapidly growing behavior amongst children 12 and under the data was alarming: the rampant use of the new media tools for early sexual expression was leading to physical sexuality, an increase in the spread of sexual diseases including syphilis, and a sharp spike upwards of unwanted pregnancies by very young teens and tweens (age 10 to 12).

Research intensified. The findings of Dr. Victor Kline suggested that “memories of experiences that occurred at times of emotional arousal [including sexual arousal] are imprinted on the brain by epinephrine, an adrenal gland hormone, and are difficult to erase. Viewing pornography can potentially condition some viewers to have recurring sexual fantasies during which they masturbate. Later they may be tempted to act out the fantasies as sexual advances.” [1]

This is exactly what researchers found happening to young boys and girls who had become addicted to Internet pornography. At first is was primarily adults, then young boys, and finally young girls.

Early exposure to pornography, especially those under the age of 10, can be devastating to emotional development and to the development of a healthy sexuality. Such children can develop sexual perversions that become permanently imprinted in their brains. The actual physical structure of their brain changes as a result of the addictive exposure.

Dr. Jerry Bergman, author of, “The Influence of Pornography on Sexual Development: Three Case Histories,” warns, “Pornography often introduces children prematurely to sexual sensations that they are developmentally unprepared to contend with. This awareness of sexual sensation can be confusing and overstimulating for children. The sexual excitement and eventual release obtained through pornography are mood altering. For example, if a young boy’s early stimulus was pornographic photographs, he can be conditioned to become aroused through photographs. Once this pairing is rewarded a number of times, it is likely to become permanent.”

If your child has or is becoming addicted to Internet pornography, chat rooms or even simple games, these are the red flags to watch for according to Dr. Young:

• Failed attempts to control behavior

• Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities

• Neglecting friends and family

• Neglecting sleep to stay online

• Being dishonest with others

• Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior

• Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior

• Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome

• Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

The dangers spelled out

The relationship of pornography to rape, incest and sexual violence

A recent study concluded that those under 14-years old habitually exposed to pornographic material have an increased likelihood of becoming sexual predators, especially rapists. Among child molesters the research found 53 percent used pornography as a prelude to their molestation. [2]

Both children and adults exposed to pornography tend to seek more explicit and graphic forms as their addiction intensifies; they develop an intense desire for a more violent and deviant experience. [3]

Pornography is related to molestation [4]

Exposure to pornography often leads to STDs, unplanned pregnancies, and sexual addiction in children as young as 10 to 11-years old.

The trend is clear: sex without responsibility is becoming acceptable and, worse, desirable. This in itself endangers children’s healthy development and emotional well-being.

Recent findings also reveal that “males who are exposed to a great deal of erotica before the age of 14 are more sexually active and engage in more varied sexual behaviors as adults than is true for males not so exposed.”[5] Another wide-ranging study shows that among 932 sex addicts, 90% of the males and 77% of the females reported that pornography was part of their addiction.[6]

Finally, pornographic exposure may cause children to make sexual advances towards other children. Sexually deviant children have not necessarily been molested. They may have simply been exposed to explicit sexuality through pornography.[7]

Internet pornography leads to reckless experimentation with sex

Researcher Dr. Jennings Bryant conducted a comprehensive study of 600 third year high school students and discovered 91% of the boys and 82% of the girls confirmed exposure to explicit, hard core porn. Almost 7 in 10 of the boys and 4 in 10 of the girls admitted wanting to try some of the sexual activities they had learned from the X-rated material. Nearly 1/3 of the boys and 1/5 of the girls reported they had tried some of what they’d seen soon after the pornographic experience. [8]

“Most pornography will find children before they ever search for it. Research says that talking to children about the dangers of pornography makes them less likely to become addicted to it. Talking about and establishing Internet rules and boundaries is more important now than ever before,” advises Danielle Tiano, author of the popular series of “Temptation” books educating parents about the dangers their children face from Internet pornography.

Tiano also warns about cell phones that parents are supplying to their children at younger and younger ages: “Most cell phones are equipped with Internet access, texting and camera capabilities, which enable kids to have constant access to information both helpful and inappropriate; and constant contact with peers and strangers. Most kids communicate in a teen text lingo that consists of abbreviations and acronyms such as KPC (keep parents clueless), POS (parent over shoulder), and ASL (age, sex, location).”

The dangers of cell phone sexting

Allison Tong, a researcher into the phenomenon of sexting reveals that “It’s much more common for children, tweens and teens to have a cell phones—a recent survey found that 78% of teens have a cell phone while 15% have a phone with Internet access. And because communication has become so easy with functions like SMS text messaging (which are usually already installed on phones now), there are more windows open for dangerous activity such as sexting. This new epidemic is becoming trendier among tweens and teens. Sexting is sending a text message with photos of children or teens that are inappropriate, naked or engaged in sex acts. What’s shocking is about 20 percent of teen boys and girls have sent such messages, according to a recent nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.”

Karen Child Ogden, M.A., a licensed marriage and family therapist in Costa Mesa, California is a contributor to the “Temptation” series written by Danielle Tiano. Ogden emphasizes that sexting is “not just an innocent thing.” She urges parents to get more involved in their kid’s activities—especially the media and communications technology. She maintains that communication with children about the sexual side of the Internet and cell phones, I-Pods, Blackberries and other devices, and their consequences, should start as early as 8-years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics have 5 tips on helping your children make wise choices:

• “Talk to your kids and ask, “Have you heard of sexting? Can you tell me what you think it is?”

• It’s important to first learn their understanding is of the issue and explain it in terms appropriate for their age.

• For younger children with cell phones who do not know about sex, tell them text messages should never contain pictures of people (kids or adults) without their clothes on, kissing or touching each other in ways that they’ve never seen before. With older children, you may want to use the term “sexting” and give specifics about sex acts they may know about. For teens, be very specific that sexting usually involves pictures of a sexual nature and it’s considered pornography.

• Make sure they understand that sexting is serious and can be considered a crime. Impress upon them there are consequences associated with sexting that may involve the police and suspension or expulsion from school.

• Make sure your children understand that any message they may receive that makes them uncomfortable should not be responded to, but to contact you or another adult about it immediately.

One last tip: if your children have their computers in their bedrooms, make them keep it and use it in a common area such as a great room, family room or the kitchen. Never allow them to keep a PC, laptop or notebook in their private room. Using a quality Internet filter program is also a priority. The better ones will filter out more than 98% of all sexually-related material and virtually 100% of all explicit pornography.

Taking these steps will help protect your children from predators, molesters and other sexual deviants that prowl cyberspace looking for easy, innocent prey. It will also help keep your children from becoming Internet addicts—especially Internet pornography addicts. By helping to assure your children a safer, better childhood, you’ll assure yourself of greater peace of mind.

Footnotes

[1] Victor B. Kline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children.

[2] W. L. Marshall, “The Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters, and Nonoffenders,” The Journal of Sex Research 25, no.2 (May 1988): 267-88.

[3] H.J. Eysenck, “Robustness of Experimental Support for the General Theory of Desensitization,” in Neil M. Malamuth and Edward Donnerstein, eds., Pornography and Sexual Aggression (Orlando, Florida: Academic Press, 1984)

[4] Take Action Manual (Washington, D.C.: Enough is Enough, 1995-96), 9.

[5] K.E. Davis and G.N. Braucht, Exposure to Pornography, Character and Sexual Deviance, Technical Reports of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970), 7.

[6] Patrick Carnes, Don’t Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addictions (New York: Bantam, 1991).

[7] Stephen J. Kavanagh, Protecting Children in Cyberspace (Springfield, VA: Behavioral Psychotherapy Center, 1997), 58-59.

[8] Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children