Impact of Porn on Adolescents


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  • ▪  Harm to Young Brains: A survey of 813 U.S. teens and young adults (13–25), found that 26% of adolescents aged 13–17 actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.24 Research has demonstrated that children are more susceptible than adults to addictions and to developmental effects on the brain.25

  • ▪  Emotional Bond with Caregivers: A nationally representative survey of youth ages 9–17 reported that online pornography users were significantly more likely to report a poor emotional bond with their 

    caregiver than adolescents who viewed pornography offline or not at all.26
  • ▪  Women as Sex Objects: Internet pornography is shown to normalize the notion that women are sex objects among both adolescent boys and girls.27

    ▪  Sexual Uncertainty and Casual Sexual Exploration: More frequent use of sexually explicit Internet material is shown to foster greater sexual uncertainty in the formation of sexual beliefs and values, as well as a shift away from sexual permissiveness with affection to attitudes supportive of uncommitted sexual exploration.28
  • ▪  Sending Sexually Explicit Images: A survey of 4,564 adolescents aged 14–17 in five European countries found that viewing Internet pornography is significantly associated with an increased probability of having sent sexual images and messages (sexting) among boys.29 A separate survey of 617 college freshman found that 30% of participants sent nude pictures at some time during high school; 45% had received nude pictures on their cell phones. The most important motivation for sexting was coercion such as blackmail or threats. About half of all sexting may be coercive.30
    In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 14 cross-sectional studies about young people aged 10-24 years, sexting was strongly correlated with having had sexual intercourse, recent sexual activity, alcohol and other drug use before sexual intercourse, as well as having multiple recent sexual partners.31

  • ▪  Risky Sexual Behaviors: Internet pornography use is linked to increases in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and a greater likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior, such as hookups, multiple sex partners, anal sex, group sex, and using substances during sex as young adolescents.32 A recent UK survey found that 44% of males aged 11–16 who viewed pornography reported that online pornography gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted to try.33page8image22736
  • ▪  Physical and Sexual Victimization: A nationally representative survey of pornography use among youth aged 9–17, found that those with increased exposure to Internet pornography were significantly more likely to report physical and sexual victimization.34

  • ▪  Associated with Adolescent Delinquency and Criminal Behavior: In a meta- analysis of eight studies, male adolescent sex offenders reported more exposure to sex or pornography than non-sex offenders.35 A study of sexually reactive children and adolescents (SRCAs) found that those who used pornography compared to those who did not use pornography were more likely to engage in a prominent pattern of lying, a persistent pattern of theft/stealing, to be truant, to frequently con/manipulate others, to engage in arson/fire setting behaviors, to engage in coerced vaginal penetration and forced sexual acts such as oral or digital penetration, to express sexually aggressive remarks (obscenities), and to engage in sex with animals.36 Other research also demonstrates an association between pornography consumption and adolescent delinquent behavior.37

  • ▪  Higher Usage Rates: Research has found that among males the younger their age of first exposure to pornography, the higher their current consumption of pornography, as well as their greater integration of pornography into sexual activity, and less enjoyment of partnered sex.38


    Future Use of Deviant Pornography: A 2013 survey of a general population of Internet pornography users revealed that those who intentionally sought pornography at a younger age were significantly more likely to be users of pornography exhibiting the sexual abuse of animals and children.39

    § Sex with Younger Adolescents: In a cross-sectional study of 710 Norwegian 18- to 19-year-olds, 19.1% of males who indicated some likelihood of having sex with a 13- to 14-year old also reported more high-frequency use of pornography and having more friends with an interest in child pornography and violent pornography.40

    Sexual Satisfaction: In a longitudinal study of 1,052 Dutch adolescents aged 13-20, research revealed that exposure to sexually explicit Internet material consistently reduced adolescents’ satisfaction with their sexual lives. The negative influence of sexually explicit Internet material was equally strong among both males and females.41 




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  • 22 Foubert, ibid.23 Farley et al., “Comparing Sex Buyers with Men Who Do Not Buy Sex: New Data on Prostitution and Trafficking.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (2015).24Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age, (Ventura, CA:
    Josh McDowell Ministry, 2016).
    25Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guild to
    Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
    , (New York: Harper Collins, 2015); Tamara L.
    Doremus-Fitzwater, Elena I. Varlinskaya, and Linda P. Spear, “Motivational Systems in Adolescence: Possible Implications for Age Differences in Substance Abuse and Other Risk-Taking Behaviors,”
    Brain and Cognition 71, no. 1 (2010):114–123.26 Michele L. Ybarra and Kimberly Mitchell, “Exposure to Internet Pornography among Children and Adolescents: A National Survey,” CyberPsychology & Behavior 8, no. 5 (2005): 473–486.27 Jochen Peter and Patti Valkenburg, “Adolescent’s Exposure to a Sexualized Media Environment and Their Notions of Women as Sex Objects,” Sex Roles 56 (2007): 381–395; Jane D. Brown and Kelly L. L’Engle, “X- Rated: Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Associated with U.S. Early Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Media,” Communication Research 36, no. 1 (February 2009): 129–151.

    28Jochen Peter and Patti M. Valkenburg, “Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet
    Material, Sexual Uncertainty, and Attitudes toward Uncommitted Sexual Exploration, Is There a
    Link?” 
    Communications Research 35, no. 5 (2008): 579–601.29 Nicky Stanley et al., “Pornography, Sexual Coercion and Abuse and Sexting in Young People’s Intimate Relationships: A European Study,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2016): 1–26.
    30Elizabeth Englander, Low Risk Associated with Most Teenage Sexting: A Study of 617 18-Year-Olds, (Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, 2012).31 Lucy Watchirs Smith, Bette Liu, Louisa Degenhardt, Juliet Richters, George Patton, Handan Wand, Donna Cross, et al., “Is Sexual Content in New Media Linked to Sexual Risk Behaviour in Young People? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Sexual Health, August 11, 2016, doi:10.1071/sh16037.32 Debra K. Braun-Courville and Mary Rojas, “Exposure to Sexually Explicit Web Sites and Adolescent
    Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors,” Journal of Adolescent Health 45 (2009): 156–162; Peter and Valkenburg (2007); C. Marston and R. Lewis, “Anal Heterosex among Young People and Implications for Health Promotion: A Qualitative Study in the UK,” BJM Open 4 (February 4, 2016): 1–6; Emily R. Rothman, et al., “Multi-Person Sex among a Sample of Adolescent Female Urban Health Clinic Patients,”

    Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 89, no. 1 (2011): 129–137; E. Häggström-Nordin, U. Hanson, and T. Tydén, “Association between Pornography Consumption and Sexual Practices among Adolescents in Sweden,” International Journal of STD & AIDS 16 (2005): 102–107; Svedin, ibid.
  • 33 Elena Martellozzo et al., “‘I Wasn’t Sure It Was Normal To Watch It . . .’ A Quantitative and Qualitative Examination of the Impact of Online Pornography on the Values, Attitudes, Beliefs and Behaviours of Children and Young People,” London: Middlesex University (2016), https://www.mdx.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/223266/MDX-NSPCC-OCC-pornography-repor
    t.pdf (accessed August 7, 2016).
    34 Ybarra, ibid.
    35 Michael C. Seto and Martin L. Lalumière, “What Is So Special About Male Adolescent Sexual
    Offending? A Review and Test of Explanations through Meta-Analysis,” Psychological Bulletin 136, no. 4 (2010): 526–575.
    36 Eileen M. Alexy, Ann W. Burgess, and Robert A. Prentky, “Pornography Use as a Risk Marker for an Aggressive Pattern of Behavior among Sexually Reactive Children and Adolescents,” Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 14, no. 4 (2009): 442–453.37 Ybarra, ibid.

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