Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Excerpt from The Teenager's Guide to the Safe Use of Cyber Porn

By Christopher Mulligan LCSW

How much porn is there?
According to Wendy and Larry Maltz, co-authors of The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide To Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, there are more than 400 million pages of pornography on the Internet. According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, one of the world's leading experts in the area of online sexual behavior, commercial pornography websites, magazines, books, DVDs, and cable television generate almost $320 billion annually worldwide. To put this in some perspective, in the United States alone, pornography revenues are larger than all the combined revenues from professional football, baseball, and basketball.

Dr. Carnes also reports that an estimated 72 million individuals visit pornography websites each year. Approximately twenty five percent of all search engine requests are pornography related. Ten percent of adult Internet users believe they are “cybersex” (online) addicts. Twenty percent of adults in the USA report having intentionally visited pornographic websites. Did you know that thirty percent of visitors to adult pornography sites are women?

The average age of first exposure to online pornography is 11 years old and seventy percent of teenagers report they have seen pornographic images online.
Does cyber porn come with instructions?

With dozens of search engines you can surf for an endless variety of sexual activities and sexual images. One word can bring up 250,000 different “hits” that contain pornographic photographs, videos, chat rooms, live WebCams, and advertisements for sexual products. Some of these websites display images of nude or nearly nude adults engaging in sexual activity. Some of these websites display sexual activity that includes animals, children, violence, and other sexual behavior that is frightening and confusing. One of the dangers of cyber porn is you really cannot control what type of image or video will “pop up.”

So, despite the amazing growth in Internet pornography, and the growth in technologies that make Internet pornography very accessible to all (such as laptops and mobile devices), Internet porn does not come with a set of instructions, a list of ingredients, or any type of warning about it’s possible danger.

So, why doesn’t cyber porn come with guidelines?  Well, the porn industry doesn’t want guidelines or regulations, because they want to sell porn to anyone who can pay for their product – including teens. The porn industry wants as many customers as is possible, and there is really no better target audience than teens – as they can develop a life-long attachment to porn use.

Why doesn’t “sex ed” programs talk about cyber porn and cyber sex?
The fact is adults have not focused on the potential dangers of cyber porn in “sex ed” programs because of the attention given to cyber bullying and cyber predators. Certainly, the most common and high profile fears related to Internet use include online “harassment” or cyber bullying and exposure to adult “cyber predators” (child molesters). Despite the high profile nature of sexual predators, including television shows focusing on predatory adults, research studies from Harvard do not show an increase in overall predatory behavior as a result of the increase in internet use by young people.  

The popular picture of a predator as an older male who preys on children is not supported by scientific findings. Most sexual solicitation of children and teens is by other minors and young adults. According to the Harvard researchers most Internet sex crimes against minors actually involve young adults and minors who mistakenly believe they are able to consent to sex with an adult.

According to the Harvard researchers, reported cases of Internet initiated sex crimes involving adult strangers are much less common than crimes initiated by family or other familiar adults. What is surprising, but supported by research, is only a small percentage of youth are deceived by adult offenders lying about their age. In fact, cyber stalking by adult offenders appears to be quite rare. This does NOT mean you should talk to strangers online or EVER arrange a meeting with a stranger from cyberspace.

As for “sex ed” programs, it appears that the availability and quantity of cyber porn has gotten way out in front of educators, schools, and parents in terms of developing an open, honest and informed discussion about the possible benefits and dangers of cyber porn. Adults simply haven’t figured out how to approach the topic of cyber porn – so teens are figuring it out on their own!
Given this the absence of clear and reliable information for teens about cyber porn, I have put together this manual.
Is any amount of cyber porn healthy?
Let’s start with the most basic question: what amount and what type of pornography is appropriate or safe? Is all pornography unhealthy? Are there websites that are educational and provide good information while using sexually graphic images?
Certainly not all online sexual activity has a negative impact on teens or adults. A recent study estimated nearly eighty percent of those who engage in online sexual activity should be considered "recreational users" and do not report any problems related to their online behavior. Both youth and adults report using the Internet to research sexual information on issues such as preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, purchasing and reviewing options for contraception, and exploring sexuality. Cyberspace allows teens and adults to explore sexual fantasies, explore sexual preferences, and learn about different forms of sexual expression in a safe and secure home environment.

However, for the approximate 20% of individuals who struggle with online sexual behavior, the consequences can be devastating and long-lasting. As I will discuss in greater detail, some people become compulsive in collecting and viewing pornography, others cross legal boundaries, while others find themselves spending 10+ hours each day online in search of sex or romance.

So, to my way of thinking, although cyber porn may be fun and exciting for some teens (and adults) and pose no emotional or physical health risks, the down side far outweighs the up side. After having worked with teens and adults with cyber porn problems, I think the risk is too great and therefore the best approach to cyber porn is to take a pass. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard teens and adults say: “I just wish someone had told me how easy it is to get out of control with cyber porn.”
My position is not about whether cyber porn is good or bad or right or wrong from a moral perspective or a religious perspective. Simply put, I think porn has the great potential damage your emotional, sexual, physical and social well-being. I am certain no one will ever regret NOT using porn – they will only regret being exposed to and using porn and losing control of their lives.

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