Ask Amy: Teen son's porn habit worries mom

April 8, 2014 

Dear Amy: My 18-year-old son and I were sharing a computer. I stumbled on his activity when he left it open. It was deeply disturbing to view the sites he had visited. Our 22-year-old daughter states, "It's no big deal, Mom. All the boys do it now."

This is not Playboy on steroids. It is shockingly graphic in real time.

How should we respond but simultaneously promote healthy sexuality and the notion of responsible erotica? How should parents respond to the tsunami of Internet pornography that our children discover, visit and revisit?

This could hijack young brains big time! I am liberal, but this is almost sickening that he might think this approaches normal sexual behavior. Help!

— Concerned parent

Dear Parent: According to a survey of 4,000 men and 4,000 women by Cosmopolitan magazine (probably a credible source, given this subject), over 30% of men surveyed said they watched porn every day. Seventy-one percent of men age 18-34 watch porn at least once a month. The first viewing of pornography typically happens in pre-adolescence.

Quoting a Time.com article on this subject, "Results show that women are from Venus and men are from whatever planet watches porn all the time."

Psychologists refer to one effect of hard-core porn on the consumer as "sexual script theory." The pornographic storyline replaces real-world sexual experience. Studies have concluded that obsessively viewing porn actually rewires the neural pathways of the brain, much like opiate drugs do.

And, like opiates, porn can be addictive. It can supplant — or destroy — real-world relationships.

Your job as parents is to do exactly what you are doing, which is to be aware and to question your son about his habits and behavior. His father (or another adult male) should talk to him about the difference between pornography and real-world sex (and love). Even though your daughter reports that this is "no big deal," I wonder if she has had experiences with guys who consume pornography and if so how this might have affected her. Male consumption of pornography has a profound effect on how women are viewed, how sex is viewed and the expectations on them sexually.

As his mother, you should tell him exactly how you feel about this and that you expect him to make choices that are healthy.

 

Contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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