Internet Pornography: The new sex ed for teens?

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - iInternet Pornography The new sex ed for teens

Is internet pornography providing many of today’s teens with their first lessons in sex education?  Earlier generations, if exposed to porn at all, encountered it through stumbling across magazines or video tapes.  Traditionally, parents had the “Birds and Bees” sex talk with youth at the onset of adolescence. More and more, it seems that this approach seems to come too late or doesn’t happen at all.  Most teens today however have internet access and the majority receive it on their smartphone.  It is naïve to believe that with this type of access to pornography, that they are not endulging in regular use of porn. How is the regular exposure impacting today’s youth; at what age are today’s youth being exposed to pornography and is porn the new source of information about sex for many teens today?

According to the New York Times, research has found that adolescents who seek out porn are more likely to engage in certain sexual behaviors (like anal sex and group sex) and to begin having sex at younger ages. Could it be that many youth are engaging in more varied sex acts and at younger ages because they watched porn?

Issues that concern many parents and professionals include how porn generally depicts women, shows sex as casual rather than intimate, and frequently depicts sex partners engaging in sex acts and parting ways without exchanging names or wearing condoms.

There is a big risk to the rising generation if they misunderstand sex as a result of a porn-only sex education.  A New York Times article suggested that college students who have watched porn but had little sex education (whether in schools or from their families) often have a skewed view of sex. They may believe that anal sex and group sex are common.  Once they engage in a real relationship with someone they care for, many of their beliefs are challenged and they find themselves readjusting to sex in the real world — very different from the sex they’ve seen online.

According to this same article, it is parents’ lack of effort to educate youth about sexuality–pornography isn’t the problem.  Increasing numbers of teens and young adults report never having had discussions about sexual themes with parents or other adults.  If parents don’t teach teenagers about sex, intimacy and healthy relationships, then pornography will remain their primary source of sex information.

With the continued bombardment of sex in today’s technology, it is vital that the rising generation learn about their bodies, how to be emotionally vulnerable with one another, and what’s healthy about sexuality so that when they’re faced with making choices about sex, that they choose healthy sexuality rather than risky sex such as what they’ve seen online.

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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