How Internet Pornography Hijacks a Child’s Brain
3 forces are at play here:
- Emotional brain
- Rational brain
The “content” of porn is designed to overstimulate every hormone involved in human sexuality, which at the time of puberty are already in oversupply as is:
Watching porn releases unnaturally high amounts of dopamine in the brain. The brain adjusts by developing tolerance, requiring more “content” to reach the same high, leading to porn addiction.
Adrenalin and Norepinephrine
High levels of these mean excitement, rapid heartbeat, heightened state of “fight or flight”, and even euphoria.
Serotonin is the hormone that promotes happiness and relaxation.
It’s impossible for a child to override this biological wiring. The emotional brain of adolescents is in overdrive compared to an adult brain. Every feeling is stronger. Including those created by watching porn.
This powerful emotional brain is not fully connected to the rational brain in charge of self-control – prefrontal cortex, which is not fully developed until the age of 25. So even if the child knows what they are doing is wrong, like a drug addict, they cannot stop. It’s not their fault.
Plus, they are curious. Especially about the things parents may not approve of. Novelty-seeking behavior is part of establishing their own separate identity.
Grown adults struggle with pornography addiction. A young brain does not stand a chance.
What Pornography Does to a Child’s Brain
Porn addiction results from high dopamine levels in the reward centers of the brain. When the brain is hijacked by the pornographic digital drug, the user has to increase doses over time. To get the same feelings, the child would crave more “content” – and of a more extreme kind.
Forget rated R, try rated XXX, with endless supply of novel content and ease of access. The person caught in this toxic reward loop would have no motivation to do anything else besides watching porn.
A porn addict is unable to develop an intimate relationship with a real person. Experiencing sexual arousal with a real life partner becomes difficult or impossible after pornographic overstimulation of the brain, which happens to be the primary sexual organ. A regular human partner with all their imperfections is just not that fun. Porn consumption leads to sexual dysfunction.
Pornography is a product. It is staged, perfect, unnatural. But young people mistakenly think that’s what sex is supposed to be, and try to replicate it in real life – with disastrous results and ruined relationships.
Porn turns people into objects, dehumanizing intimate relationships.
Pornography desensitizes the viewer to perversions and violence against women – both prominently featured in the “content”. The child would grow up to think this is what sex is like.
If they “try this at home”, consequences could range from emergency room visits to imprisonment for sex crimes. If recorded and posted, unhealthy sex experiments stay forever online and ruin education and career prospects. With or without an official sex offender record.
Anxiety and Depression
Lack of motivation and achievement in the real world results in anxiety and depression.
Failure to Launch
Preoccupation with porn destroys a young person’s ability to concentrate on their academic work. It consumes all of their time, their physical and mental resources, which are no longer available to launch them as a functional adult.
Where Kids Encounter Porn
Where kids can find pornographic content:
- Video Games
Most kids are exposed to pornography by age 13. Average age of exposure is 11. By the time kids are teenagers, most of them have encountered it – boys and girls.
Early exposure to pornography steals their innocence.
What Can Parents Do
Block it. Period. Use the tools we summarized in this post to stop the damage to your child’s brain.
Next, normalize the pornography conversation. Never shame your child if they confess. Express compassion and work together on installing proper content filters on their devices – they should not have to rely on their underdeveloped self-control against the industry that spends billions to break it.
Make it easy for them to do the right thing – if their access to pornography is blocked, they do not have to struggle with temptation and feel ashamed, but get on with their normal human development to grow into healthy adults and have happy families of their own.
If they continue to struggle, get help from a specialist.
Accountability apps monitor device usage remotely to block questionable content, and enlist the help of a trusted ally to help children and adults quit porn for good.
Pricing: $17/month or $184 annually
Up to 10 users and unlimited devices