Youth Culture Window
On a daily basis, millions of teenagers are bombarded by graphic and explicit images through online images and videos. The degree to which they are impacted is as varied as the kids themselves, but none of it is positive.
Fortunately, there are tools to help…if adults are willing to use them to level the playing field.
Yes, I wrote about porn just 5 months ago. In that article, the not-so-hidden effects of pornography on young lives were discussed in saddening detail. Perhaps we might be benefited by a brief reminder of what research is saying about porn’s impact on us as sexual beings.
Thanks to research published in JAMA Psychiatry we now know the following about porn’s impact on our brains:
- The amount of time spent viewing porn is related to a reduction in the brain’s grey matter.
- The reward circuitry in the brain of a person who views lots of porn shows less activity.
- The link between “control” and “reward circuitry” in brains decreases with more porn use.
Contemplate – just for a moment – what this could mean with respect to behavior. No, really. Think about it. This research (above) was conducted on adults in 2014. And now, thanks to more recent studies, we now know how porn affects teenagers: it seems to be “warping their brains.”
According to Dr. Rebecca Daly-Peoples of Middlesex University (London), pornography is “completely influencing the entire way they’re seeing sex and intimacy.” But porn’s twisting of the understanding of sexuality and intimacy is just the start; the team was also concerned about the fact that adolescents’ brains are “the most at-risk to addiction.” And when it comes to behavior, Dr. Daly-Peoples warned that exposure to pornography could lead to unhealthy relationships and rising levels of sexual abuse in teens’ lives, too.
Before our skeptical sides try to justify (or dismiss) these findings, perhaps we should hear Andrew’s story and how his life was “taken over” by porn.
Fixing the Fix
OK, so porn is bad. Really bad. There isn’t much (serious) objection to that point of view. But before parents and youth workers embrace a defeatist attitude on the subject, we should realize that there are great resources available to kids specifically designed to help them navigate the minefield of pornography they walk through each day. Here are five great resources that can provide help across the spectrum of porn use and addiction.
- Your Brain on Porn. This FREE e-book by the folks at Covenant Eyes, makers of Christian-based internet accountability software, discusses 5 ways porn impacts a person’s brain. You can also discover more about their ministry to the millions affected by porn use (and get help if you or a teenager in your life needs it). Simply click on the link and then click on the download button found on the right side of the screen to get this free tool.
- XXXChurch. Sounds risqué doesn’t it? That’s kind of the point behind this California-based ministry headed up by Pastor Craig Gross. For years, his ministry has gained renown for reaching out to porn stars with the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for providing his own version of free online accountability called X3Watch. The need for tech-based tools like these become even more important in a world where only 13% of parents are aware of their kids’ online activities. I can’t say too many good things about this ministry. I personally subscribe to his helpful email blasts and love seeing what they’re rolling out next in the war against porn.
- Sex Matters is probably one of the best books to hand a young person thinking about sex (so every kid, right?) or struggling with porn. In this straight shooting book, Jonathan devotes a whole chapter to porn, but only after laying a solid Biblical foundation explaining God’s plan for sex… and Jonathan doesn’t mince words. To quote Doug Fields, "Sex Matters isn't afraid to tell them the unedited truth." He also includes an entire chapter addressing the tough questions young people have about sex today (including same sex relationships). Best yet… the book is just $5 and change (or less than $5 each when you buy in bulk). Nice!
- Every Young Man’s Battle (and Every Young Woman’s Battle). These books take us down a decidedly less digital trail, but they are powerful, nonetheless. Ironically enough, I picked up EYMB to read during the four-hurricane barrage that hit Florida in 2004 (and as I type this, Hurricane Matthew is a mere two hours away from us). These books do a superb job of “getting inside the heads” of young men and women. Furthermore, the authors – who’ve written several in this series – do a great job of providing highly practical tips for avoiding sexual immorality – NOT just online pornography. Yeah, the resources are a little old, but they’re still great! Speaking of “old” resources….
- Church attendance. Yep, it looks like good ol fashioned church can help reduce pornography use in the lives of young people. Research by two professors at the University of Calgary found that young people who regularly attended church only viewed half as much porn as their peers who never attended. Of course, “half” still leaves room for vast improvement, but it still speaks to the support individuals can gain from others facing the same trials. Bottom line: get your kids in church.
There are plenty of other resources out there, as well. Our team, The Source for Youth Ministry, even offers free resources (like this one and this one) that adults can use to discuss freedom from porn with teens they love. Concerned adults – whether parents or youth workers – have more access to great tools like these than ever before. Pick some…and use them!
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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