Health

The Risky Sex Teens Learn from Porn

Rather than turn a blind eye to the outrageous material that can be found online, parents have to guard their kids' health

Some of this material is of a graphic and sensitive nature. Its intent is to keep children safe. 

For parents who may not be aware, there is an endless amount of hardcore porn just a Google search away for any family member with access to a computer or mobile device. That includes children. And unfortunately, they are watching.

“The average boy now watches 50 porn video clips a week,” said one psychologist.

Recent studies show that more than 90 percent of boys ages 11 to 16 and 60 percent of girls have viewed porn online.

Because we can’t shelter our kids from every single graphic and sometimes violent image they might encounter, a new report suggests teaching our kids about what they’re seeing instead. Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, urge moms and dads to have the discussion, as children as young as eight years old are increasingly acting out what they’re seeing. Each family must judge for itself, of course, and take this with a grain of salt — but the issue overall is not one to shy away from, given the prevalence of this outrageous material on the internet.

Alas, porn has become the de facto sex education for many young people, including teens, according to Cindy Gallop, a British advertising consultant and owner of several businesses in New York City, including makelovenotporn.com.

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It’s one of the reasons supporters of Proposition 60 in California wanted the measure to pass in November — the bill would have enforced an already existing law requiring adult performers to wear condoms while filming pornography.

“A lot of people get their sex education through these films, and I think it’s sending a bad message,” Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, told NPR. Weinstein was a major proponent of the measure, and he knows what it’s like to deal with a debilitating disease — since his foundation works to advocate for people with AIDS. “I don’t want young people to be educated that the only kind of sex that’s hot is unsafe sex.”

The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases was at an all-time high last year. There are now 20 million new cases each year of STDs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, and some of the diseases have increased as much as 19 percent in a single year. Half of all new cases of STDs occur in young people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Young people ages 13 to 24 account for a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses.

It all comes as sex education programs in the U.S. are disappearing and fewer teens are talking with their parents about this sensitive topic, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The rising inability of young men to relate to their peers is a result of the video game and pornography industry, according to Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist at Stanford University. “The problem is they now prefer [the] asynchronistic internet world to the spontaneous interaction in social relationships,” Zimbardo said in a TED talk.

Related: Trump Signs Anti-Porn Pledge, Clinton Refuses

He continued: “Men don’t know the difference between making love and doing porn. The average boy now watches 50 porn video clips a week. And the porn industry is the fastest growing industry in America — $15 billion annually. For every 400 movies made in Hollywood, there are 11,000 porn videos.”

Most youth don’t understand that sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted during all types of sex, and although they may understand how condom use prevents pregnancy, they may not understand they need to use a condom from start to finish in order to prevent disease. Perhaps that’s also why young people ages 13 to 24 account for a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses. And as much as parents may hope their children choose abstinence for a little bit longer, more than a third of high school students reported having had sex in the last three months. More than 40 percent of them do not use condoms, according to a 2014 report from the CDC.

Related: How Porn Wrecks Relationships

No parent wants his or her child to use pornography for sex education and experimentation. But many kids are already using it — despite our best efforts to teach them otherwise and give them more accurate information. Bottom line: Parents, talk to your children about this issue, and do so more than once.

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