There are a number of factors to consider when looking at the repercussions of teens looking at pornography. Let’s look at a few more consequences.
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The Internet Engine
There are hundreds of millions of pornographic Web pages on the Internet. What makes Internet porn unique? A generation ago, to access and view pornography, one would need to drive to the seedy side of town and dare being spotted walking into to an adult book store. Usually the inconvenience and the fear of shame would be enough to prohibit most from making the drive. Not to mention most stores would have turned a minor away at the door. Today the Internet changes all of that.
The human brain is naturally attracted to novelty. Our first experience of something creates a “high” of sensation as the brain takes in new information. The Internet is a never ending reservoir of novelty. Viewers are not limited to a small series of pictures offered in an adult magazine, but a virtually unending series of images and video clips that feature every sort of variety. In effect, the Internet accelerates the addictive nature of porn.
Psychologist Al Cooper, a pioneer in the study of cybersex, wrote about the “Triple-A Engine” that drives Internet porn: it is Accessible (just the click of a mouse and I can see it), Affordable (much of it is free online), and Anonymous (no one has to know I’m watching it). These three factors remove the common blockades between an individual and pornography.
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Formative Teen Years
When Paul counseled Timothy to “flee youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22) he was pointing to the reality we all experience in our teen years. Puberty brings with it a whole host of emotions and hormonal highs.
Teenage brains are still in the critical processes of development. There is a thin wiring between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is the emotional and pleasure center. The prefrontal cortex acts as a conscience in the brain: mediating conflicting thoughts and choices between right and wrong or good and bad, predicting future events, and governing social control. Because the wiring between these areas of the brain isn’t fully strengthened until the early to mid-20s, teens tend to operate on a more instinctual level, are driven more by emotions, and often lack judgment.
For these reasons teens are particularly susceptible to the addictive and powerfully stimulating effects of pornography; it’s like throwing gasoline on a bonfire. Dr. Dean Belnap comments about what happens to a teenage brain overstimulated with pornography:
“Youth who lose the prefrontal cortex control in their brains become addicted to their limbic system. The change is manifest in every aspect of their lives: relationships, values and purpose are up for grabs as the brain downshifts to dependency and need.”
For a teen, pornography can become something that radically shapes their beliefs about sexuality. When children or adolescents are directly exposed to pornography they are more likely to desire sexual intercourse at an earlier age, more likely to see sex as a commodity, less likely to see marriage or having a family as attractive prospects, and more likely to see certain abnormal sexual practices as “normal.” What will be the net effect of so many teens falling prey to Internet porn addictions? We simply don’t know. Sociologist Jill Manning states,
“Research reveals many systemic effects of Internet pornography that are undermining an already vulnerable culture of marriage and family. Even more disturbing is the fact that the first Internet generations have not reached full maturity, so the upper-limits of this impact have yet to be realized.”