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I understand the title of today’s article is quite disturbing and none of us want to even think about our children being exposed to pornography. But the reality is slightly different from what we expect and imagine. In order to bring the real picture to your attention, I would like to quote some alarming statistics and numbers here:

  • 32% of teens admit to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43 % do so on a weekly basis. (TruResearch(2012) Convenent Eyes 2015, Pronography statistics)
  • Only 12 % parents know their teens are accessing pornography. (TruResearch(2012) Convenent Eyes 2015, Pronography statistics)
  • 93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls have seen online pornography before the age of 18.( http://familysafemedia.com)
  • Teens are at a greater risk of developing a pornography addiction as their brains are still developing. (Riemersma J. & Systma. M, “A New generation of sexual addiction and compulsivity, 2013 Oct)

No parent wants to discover and deal with pornography addiction in their teen. Yet, it is increasingly common. As you can see in the above statistics, pornographic exposure is skyrocketing and our culture is pushing sex everywhere. A hormonal body with a curious brain is primed to be enticed.

Now with that said it is indeed a difficult task for parents to identify if their child is being exposed to pornography. Before I even suggest some of the symptoms or identifying facts about this, in my opinion prevention is always better than cure. Unlike earlier days, today’s children are visually clod and are exposed to immense information beyond what we can imagine or think of , therefore it is our responsibility to be extremely careful about our own internet usage as well.

A study by a local NGO confirms that most of the children below the age of 18 are exposed to pornography through their parent’s phone and the history used by their parents. Many teenagers who own a phone today are allowed to sleep with their phone and are able to access these websites and have been observed up late night.

The symptoms below are common among young people exposed to pornography but they are all not definitive proofs:

Depression and Loss of Interests: When a young person is exposed to the challenges of life, they need to cope. Often, they are under-resourced to do so emotionally – partly because their brain is still forming, and teenagers usually come into contact with many challenges.

Porn is a dopamine volcano that can boost a teen out of a funk. It is overwhelming and exciting to the brain, and it can quickly be associated with feeling better. Further, it is part of the nature of curiosity and exploration of sexuality – except that it is a lie that can consume them.

Sadly, depression sets in when we become beholden to a shameful, secretive and brain chemistry-altering stimulus. Seeking this stimulus, keeping it hidden and managing nagging shame can consume a teen. Depression naturally lowers enjoyment in other things teens may have liked and makes them more susceptible to return to porn. Video game addiction also functions in a similar manner and often co-occurs with pornography use.

Lying, Stealing and Secrets: If a teen has increased the number of lies they tell and the secrets they hide, it is worth noting! People often assume these are natural actions of teenagers who are “finding their way.” This is true to some extent, yet if we take a step back, we can usually trust our internal sense of when this is growing into a problem. Further, if you have any money or cards stolen, passwords changed, the “password reset email” (when you didn’t activate it) etc., you shouldn’t blindly look the other way.

Shame is the best friend of lying, stealing and secrets. Don’t expect a quick or easy confession, and don’t press hard for one! This is more likely to make the teen go further into hiding.

Debilitating Pursuit of Immediate Gratification: Again, this is common among teens, but it should be monitored. If your teen can’t move away from pleasure-seeking behavior, this either is causing them problems, or it will. A relentless search that negates the necessary tasks of growing up (school, chores, sleep, relationships, etc.) is a sign of something wrong.

Technology Obsession: The previous point ties in with technology obsession. Teens with unfiltered and unmonitored access to internet-enabled devices are at great risk. Technology (including games) can quickly become addictive, and an inability to not use it is problematic. It is important to monitor device history and downloads. You will quickly discover if inappropriate content is being accessed, or deleted or covered up (especially if history is consistently missing).

How to manage your kids if you are sure they are being exposed to pornography. Please wait till my next article to know more about the same.

(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)