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Parenting Teens Who Struggle With Porn

Last Updated: October 30, 2020

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

One survey (among hundreds of college students) indicates that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography before the age of 18. How does pornography influence the mind of a teenager? With the first wave of the Internet generation entering adulthood, we now have data coming from many directions to give us a glimpse of the answer.

  • Research done with first-year college students shows that individuals with higher levels of exposure to pornographic websites develop a tolerance toward sexually explicit material, and thereby require more novel or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal. The same study also indicates that these individuals have tendencies to perceive promiscuity as the status-quo and have cynical attitudes about love and monogamous marriage.
  • In other research, the association between porn consumption and sexual practices is studied among hundreds of high school students. They found that individuals with a high consumption of pornography were far more likely to engage in sexual intercourse with a friend (i.e., someone with whom they were not in a loving relationship). Overall, 29% report that porn had influenced their own sexual behavior.
  • Another study among thousands of 7th and 8th graders shows that the measure of a teen’s “sexual media diet” (from TV, movies, music, Internet sites, etc.) has a statistically significant association with their sexual activity and future intentions to be sexually active.

Now, none of this research goes to show direct causality, but researchers are increasingly concerned about the impact pornography is having on youth attitudes about sexuality. Because teens are emotionally and physiologically limited in their ability to process pornographic material, parents do have reason to be concerned.

More is needed than limiting teens’ exposure to pornography. Teen boys and girls need to be mentored through their developing sexuality with a comprehensive vision that counters the sensual images and messages sent by our culture. This is easier said that done because it challenges parents to not opt for quick-fixes, but rather pursue a level of parental involvement and care from the cradle to college (and beyond).

To learn more about this comprehensive approach to parenting, I highly recommend you check out the resources from Shepherd Press. These books and other resources offer a powerful, biblical vision for parenting. Their book, Age of Opportunity, deals specifically with the subject of parenting teens.