Last week I attended the screening of a documentary titled ‘Over 18’. This film was created to ‘combat pornography addiction among children and teens.' If that doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps the following statistics will:
- 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls view pornography before the age of 18
- 71% of teens hide online behaviour from their parents
- 28% of 16-17-year-olds have unintentionally been exposed to porn online
As a part of the CPCC community, I was familiar with many of the facts presented during the evening. Yet, I found myself leaving with a heavy heart after being reminded of the reality of our world.
Less than 45 years ago Playboy came out with their first magazine. Less than 15 years ago we were introduced to the broadband internet. In just a few decades, we’ve seen the distribution of porn drastically evolve due to anonymity, affordability, and accessibility. How porn was presented to teens 30 years ago stands in sharp contrast to how it is today. Content previously considered risqué is now viewed to be mild in mainstream media. Thus, the way parents and teens understand porn in today's day and age is different.
We need to remember that the prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed until age twenty-five. This cortex is responsible for problem solving and processing complex thoughts, impulse control and emotional regulation. It helps us make decisions with an awareness of potential consequences. Because of this, children struggle to work through emotions that emerge from the 200% dopamine spike that comes from viewing porn. The documentary reported children feeling anxious, having fear, and being full of questions or feeling traumatized after accidentally or purposefully viewing porn. All need adults to help process such an experience.
Porn can be awkward to talk about and uncomfortable to address. But because the brain creates pathways, people can become conditioned to being aroused solely this way. Thus discussions surrounding porn are vital. Fortunately, our brain has also been discovered to have the capacity to rewire itself thanks to its neuroplasticity.
Words and images have power and if parents, guardians and other trusted adults don’t educate and inform children, the industry will.
You can play a role in bringing change by:
-attending a screening (there is another one November 19th in Calgary!)
-becoming familiar with Article 17, which is a UN convention that Canada has signed to protect our kids from harmful forms of media
-signing the petition for meaningful age verification so new laws would protect our children online and help prevent them from being exposed to pornogoraphy
-signing the petition or writing a letter in support of Motion M-47, which if adopted, the Standing Committee on Health will be required to undertake a study to examine the public health effects of the ease of access and viewing of pornography on youth