A recent headline in the op/ed section of The Dallas Morning News caught my eye: Does porn harm kids? (By the way, I really don’t like the new trend in headline writing that no longer capitalizes all the words. But maybe that’s because I am now considered a dinosaur among journalists.)
Anyway, I found the article most interesting. In it David Segal, a business reporter for The New York Times, wrote about the results of scientific research that cannot difinitively prove there is a correlation between teen watching porn and then engaging in risky behavior, such as having unprotected sex or sex at a young age.
A report, produced by the Children’s Commissioner in England studied 276 research papers on teens and pornography, showed that there could be a link between porn and risky behavior, but exactly what that link is could not be defined. Segal wrote, “Given the ease with which teenagers can find Internet pornography, it’s no surprise that those engaging in risky behavior have viewed pornography online. Just about every teenager has. So blaming X-rated images for risky behavior may be like concluding that cars are a leading cause of arson because so many arsonists drive.”
Luckily, Segal did not end the article there. I might have lost all my respect for him at that point. He included the results of a debate conducted by the Children’s Commission that asked a group of teens, aged 16 to 18, to debate whether viewing porn had an impact on them. Half of the group, which was comprised of boys and girls, were to take the con arguments, the other the pro arguments. According to Miranda Horvarth, a professor of psychology at Middlesex University in London, the group arguing the pro side had very strong opinions. “They said it had an impact on their body image, on what young people thinks sex should be like, what they could expect from sex. They talked about how if you see things in pornography, you might think it’s something you should be doing and go and do it.”
The bottom line from researchers, and from David Segal, comes down to parental involvement and guidance. Parent-child conversations about sexuality separate from pornography is vital, as are controls of what very young children are exposed to. Rory Reid, a research psychologist and assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles offered this thought to Segal, “Putting a computer in a kids room without any limits on what can be viewed is a bit like tossing a teenager the keys to a car and saying: ‘Go learn how to drive. Have fun.'”
What do you think? Do you think porn and violent video games have a negative impact on kids?
On a much brighter note, I do hope you will try to come back on Wednesday to meet my special guest that day; Harrison Cheung, who worked for Christian Bale as publicist, marketer, and personal assistant for almost a decade. His book, Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman, has received high praise and offers a balanced and diplomatic look at the life of the most lauded Batman. I’ll admit I am a fan and can’t wait to read the book.
2 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings”
Violence – I don’t know. If it’s the ONLY thing kids get, and their home life is at all contentious, it’s going to be a problem. Sadly, with half of marriages ending in divorce, many children grow up with stress and yelling, or passive aggressive behavior, or any of the many other behaviors parents who don’t like each other any more use to advertise that fact: children are little pitchers, are not stupid, and ARE paying attention.
Porn (how I hate that word!) is something else. It is rarely female-friendly – and the amount of misinformation about everything that is broadcast would fill Wikipedia.
The best you can do there is answer questions, refuse to overtly have the stuff in the house, and model an adult relationship – between the adults in the house. And keep pointing out the flaws. What they do when they leave home will be heavily influenced by how they were brought up – and then you’re out of the picture, as a parent. I wish it didn’t exist, especially in easily-accessed, massive quantities.
I always told my kids that while I wouldn’t be mad if they viewed porn online – out of curiosity – I hoped they’d actively avoid it until they knew what a healthy sex life was. It’s not the nudity or sex that bother me, per se – it’s exactly what those teens described: the effect on body self-image, the notion that THIS is what “sex” is all about (“this” being the more kinky, cheapened, unequal forms of sex), and the idea that it’s something they “should” be doing in order to be normal – when porn isn’t necessarily reflective of anything that’s “normal.” I just didn’t want them scarred for life.
Extreme body modification and violence (esp. when coupled with porn) are WORSE.
I do think, though, that poor impulse control and a penchant for engaging in “risky behavior” lead kids to view porn online in the first place. Most of them know it’s “taboo” and that makes it more attractive. I didn’t make it “taboo” – I shared my concerns and ASKED my kids to avoid it. Pretty sure that was a more effective approach.