Is there a way to explain the risks of porn to kids without guilt?

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Parents can help their children to find orgasm less addictive by praising them for asking questions, and avoiding all suggestion that sex is cause for shame or guilt.

“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”—Josh Billings

If you explain how the mammalian brain works, and what its goals are, your child can begin to separate his or her will from his or her urges. It’s also helpful to explain that orgasm is a powerful learning reinforcer, not unlike gambling, drugs or alcohol, and that it’s the high part of a longer cycle. The lows can actually increase the need for relief, which means that choosing to masturbate is normal—but somewhat self-defeating as a solution for uncomfortable sexual tension. So, for example, settling for wet dreams and letting one’s body set its own schedule can mean less overall frustration. This course of (in)action doesn’t inflame the search for sexual satiation in the same way that scratching the itch does.

In addition to explaining how the forced pursuit of sexual satiation can lay down ruts (pathways) in the brain, you can emphasize the importance of nourishing connections with peers, and perhaps even suggest alternative ways of easing frustration.

Kids need this information early on, so they can make their own investigations, chart their own course, and avoid several different, but equally potent pitfalls: fearful repression, guilt-free—yet destructive—hypersexuality, and compelling “sinful” behavior.

My husband and I were asked to write an article addressed to 11-year olds, because "that's when most boys begin viewing porn" according to the founder of No Porn Northampton. When challenged by a father who questioned that claim, I found some 2007 research from Alberta, Canada, which said that by age 13/14, one third of the boys surveyed reported accessing porn "too many times to count." (Strictly speaking porn is not always a “male” problem. In the Alberta survey, 8 percent of girls were also accessing porn "too many times to count.")

Since porn/masturbation rapidly creates attention-grabbing pathways in the brain, which can foster compulsion, it’s good to educate kids early on. Remember, even if your child is sexually naïve, his friends may not be.

Porn is crueler than substance addiction in some ways. Vivid, unsettling images can remain in the brain long after someone stops using it.

Kids also need to know that the brain is particularly susceptible to becoming hooked on novel thrills on demand, such as porn or video games (many of which have a lot of erotic content). In fact, access to anticipation may be a bigger factor in the compulsion behind Internet porn use than visuals of naked bodies (which are certainly compelling). Using Internet porn is like having a slot machine at home. Recovering users report that it's very hard to resist finding out whether there's a new picture at a porn site.

For example, consider this experiment, in which a man challenged site visitors to abstain from porn for two weeks. The Great Porn-Off. Of 94 subjects, 52 (or 55%) failed to go just one week without porn.

Age of experimentation may play a role, too. Some of the porn-addicted visitors to our site, who desperately want to escape their compulsions, discovered the over-stimulation of masturbation and porn as early as 7-9 years old. In other words, they were hooked on orgasm, and focusing on related cues (that is anything their brains had associated with orgasm) years before they could even ejaculate. As the rational part of the brain is not fully developed until age 25, it is very likely that the earlier one begins to pursue the ready stimulation of erotic images, the more likely one can - quite innocently - fall into extreme patterns of behavior. Also, the age of puberty has been dropping steadily in girls. Are boys also affected?

A heart-to-heart discussion about porn is the perfect occasion to explain more about how all addictions and compulsions affect the brain. Kids need to know that there is a window during which it is relatively easy to let go of any intensely stimulating thrill. Yet if they keep going back for more easy gratification, they are likely to find it much harder to quit down the road. It's not clear how long the average progression is from casual use to full-blown addiction. Natural reinforcers (such as orgasm and sugar) are believed to take more time to create strong pathways in the brain than recreational drugs. However, a recent experiment revealed that sugar, at least, is highly stimulating. Even rats addicted to cocaine preferred intensely sweet substances – sucrose and saccharine – to cocaine.

In general, friendships with both genders, and bonding behaviors with caregivers, can ease the need to masturbate. (In the Alberta survey, rural, more isolated kids had bigger porn habits than those in cities.) It is natural for kids to begin to bond with “new tribes” at adolescence, but bonding behaviors (from parents), such as careful listening and lots of eye contact, are still soothing.

(Age 20) I know that when I have the uncontrollable need to masturbate, it’s because I’ve passed up an opportunity to connect deeply with someone.--Jason

(Age 40) I think my parents were far more enlightened than their peers, and they tried their best not to make me feel ashamed of my sexuality; nevertheless, I was still a basket case of misery and shame during my high school years.—Darren

Most important: Frank, open, honest discussion

I'm a mid-20s recovering addict, but certainly no parent! I can only share my experience and hope it helps you to develop your own informed strategy.

I think Marnia's advice above is solid. It's based around trusting, honest education about observations of our internal mechanisms without judgements, demands, or unhealthy emotional behaviors.

For me, compulsive pornography-viewing distorted my perceptions of women, made it harder for me to build relationships, and seemed to interfere to some degree with my normal social functioning. I thought I was just an introvert, but it seems like my compulsive use was at least partially responsible for damaging my capacity for pleasurable interactions with real people.

My habit started around age 12 or 13 when the Internet was really taking off. My parents' main strategy was to try to block my access when they couldn't monitor me without really having any discussions with me about the effects or dangers of what was out there. Or even about exactly what WAS out there. They lacked education, I lacked interest, and there were feelings of fear, anger, shame, and wrongness that made it all even harder for us.

Despite their good intentions, the strategy did not work too well. To ration a child's access to the world's knowledge seems backwards, doesn't it? Blockers and filters may help hide the problem temporarily, but hiding an undesirable part of the culture does not make it go away forever. As a parent you will eventually lose any power struggle that develops over the issue of blocking or restrictions even though you have your teen's best interests at heart.

Indeed there is danger that trying to hide something stimulating from a child or teen will drive him or her to seek out the newly-forbidden thrill with even more intensity! I certainly noticed this in my own case. Our noble desire to protect must be moderated with the understanding of these (perhaps unfortunate) psychological principles.

(As an aside, one might argue likewise that the prohibition on underage drinking, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, actually increases the harm experienced because of the allure of the forbidden. Most universities have a thing or two to say about this since they are forced to deal with the fallout.)

Sexual education in the schools was difficult because often the teachers' shame, guilt, and fear were projected out towards us (already confused) students. This is tragic, and probably hasn't changed much. I don't recall porn ever even being discussed as a topic! Needless to say you can't count on a public school to handle this issue adequately.

I fear the situation with Internet porn has gotten worse since I was a young teenager. Videos are even more addictive than pictures, which were all that was reasonably available back then. But take heart: you have a lot of power to help your children navigate through our strange and somewhat dysfunctional culture. With just a little luck, your children's experience with this phenomenon will be much smoother than mine was!

I could say a word

I know what is the difference between how I have been educated and other kids. I think I know quite well what should protect children against porn. The question is why should I tell? And people who are doing porn know for sure how addictive it is, even more they do everything to enhance that addictiveness, they know how they destroy people lives, not only for money, but for making the sexual competition lower. Do they not have double fun being aware how many looser are looking for it being completely out of real world for that time? Moreover, quite intelligent people get addicted to porn - what will happen for human race if all of shy, talented people genes just run out from genetic pole? Do we want to live in a world without empathy, caring for others, helping each other? Do we want to have half artificial busted and cocked celebrities all around us, who wont have any real smile for us? Ok I need couple of days or months to smile to someone, but its REAL, its because I really want to smile to someone, I want to show how much I like the person, not because I'll project view of celebrity. How many people get stuck to watch this or that Mr/Ms B.P smile like an automatic brainless 'I love you because you are celebrity from TV'. Isn't romance, or listening 5 hours/day bad guy pop star women porn? I need to force myself to speak in the shop blooding because 'I am sorry but I am not such a celebrity like you want?' so I'll stay all my life alone? Kiss the screen, baby. There are all courageous, brave, strong men. I promise they are all tall enough, well, only the screen resolution making them a little shorter down there.

I am too shy to be noticed by anyone.

Do you have

any kind of spiritual path? This transition you want to make doesn't have to be so hard.

Here's a suggestion: Just *pretend* there is a force willing to help you and ask it to show you the next step. It won't kill you. Wink I was a confirmed atheist, too, for many years. Try asking. Don't be afraid to be wrong.

You will make faster progress if you believe help is available...even if you are making it up. For now, just use your imagination. Sit down, write out your questions. And then write the answers you would give yourself if you were an All Wise Being.

Just try it.

And if you have gifts that would help others, find a way to share them. The more you give, the more you get.

I've got an important

I've got an important question, I hope that one of you will give me an advice. I noticed that my son watch porn and I don't know what to do. I spoke with him but I wanna do something more. I'm thinking about parental control software cause maybe it will protect my son from the dark side of the internet. Anyone use PCWebControl or K9 and could recommend me one of them or maybe something better?