Web Porn Affects Teen’s Sexual Attitudes

Studies have shown that each year 40 percent of teens and preteens visit porn sites either deliberately or accidentally.

In a study which appears on the February issue of Pediatrics (Vol. 119, No. 2, pages 247-257), attorney Janis Wolak, psychologist Kimberly Mitchell, PhD, and Finkelhor, of the UNH center discovered that 42 percent of a nationally representative sample of 1,500 Internet users between 10-17 years old had been exposed to online porn in the last year, with only about 2/3 reporting unwanted exposure. The team also discovered that the incidence of unwanted exposure for this age bracket has actually increased from 26 percent between 1999 and 2000, to 34 percent in 2005.

Boys tend to seek out porn more than girls, and their use increases as they get older, studies discovered, though not surprisingly. For example, the UNH team’s study found that 38 percent of 16- and 17- year old male Internet users deliberately visited porn sites (or x-rated sites) in the previous year, compared to only 8 percent of girls. Likewise, Australian sociologist Michael Flood, PhD, of La Trobe University, reported that 38 percent of boys and only 2 percent of girls aged 16 and 18 purposely accessed Web porn. Flood’s report appeared in the March issue of the Journal of Sociology (Vol. 43, No. 1, pages 45-60).

Teens’ sexual attitudes

All published studies on the influence of Web porn on teenagers’ attitudes are correlational. As such, researchers admit that they can’t say for certain whether access to such material can really cause certain attitudes and/or behaviors, says Jochen Peter, PhD, a communications researcher at the University of Amsterdam.

However, Jochen and his colleague Patti M. Valkenburg, PhD, are finding some intriguing ties.

In an survey of 471 Dutch teens aged 13-18 years old, the researchers found that the more frequent teens look for online for, the more they tend to have a "recreational" attitude toward, particularly to view sex as a purely physical function.

In a study reported in the December 2006 Journal of Communication (Vol. 56, No. 4, pages 639-660), the team also discovered a connection between porn use and casual sex or the feeling that it wasn’t necessary for people to have feelings for each other to have sex. Boys were more inclined to harbor such beliefs than girls, and were also more likely to hold these attitudes more strongly when they see the material as realistic.

In a related study which appeared in the March issue of Sex Roles (Vol. 56, No. 5/6, pages 381-395), the team found a relationship between the type and explicitness of the material the teenagers watched and their inclination to view women as "sexual play things." the more explicit the material, the more teens tend to view women in these ways. Interestingly, the researchers found that Internet movie porn was the only media type to show a statistically important relationship.

Ralph J. DiClemente, PhD, a health psychologist at Emory University, and his colleagues are conducting a study on the link between Web porn use and teens’ sex behaviors. They are using high-tech software to capture which and how many sex Web sites 560 young people access over 16 months. The researchers also survey the teens every two months about their sexual attitudes, onset of sexual behavior and frequency of sexually risky behavior. The study is yet to be finalized.

Source: APA