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Teenagers and pornography

Parents have a hard time adjusting to the notion of their teenager as sexually active, and sex is the single most difficult topic for parents to discuss with their teenagers. There are radically opposing views on sex education, recently the abstinence program has been supplemented by Barrack Obama's programs including contraceptive advice to teenagers. Whether to have sex before marriage is a thorny issue that many teenagers wrestle with, however, the figures for teen pregnancy indicate that many teenagers have ignored abstinence advice.

Parents may find this a very difficult topic and unable to talk it through with their teenagers, rely on school education programs to provide the advice that teens seek. How much more difficult, then, is it for parents to deal with a teenager who is interested in pornography? There is a gender divide on this issue; men are more likely to be interested in pornography, and fathers may find it less shocking that their teenage son has a few dirty magazines, than that their teenage daughter has pictures of naked men pinned to the inside of her school locker!

There is also a debate over what is meant by pornography; Playboy magazine, Emmanuelle films or 18+ video games. Teenagers will always be curious about anything that is forbidden, or classified as above their age group, that is natural. What is not natural is when curiosity becomes an obsession, and the teenager withdraws from healthy interaction with family and friends.

If the teenager has very little understanding about what is normal in sexual relationships, they may base their understanding on the pornographic portrayals they read in magazines and see in films. Some pornography is violently debasing and would have a highly negative impact on a confused adolescent.

Parents may think that because pornography, soft or hard, is age restricted, their teenager cannot access it, and therefore there is no need to worry. Assuming that there is no way for teens to access porn is naïve. Their household may have parental controls installed on the computers and nothing more risqué than Good Housekeeping available to read; it does not mean their teens' friends houses are the same. Adults read pornography and watch pornographic movies; teenagers "borrow" these items.

There is a black market for these types of materials in most high schools, and older brothers and sisters may see no harm in lending their teenage siblings their sexually explicit media. Parents need to tackle the issue in the same way that they deal with drug abuse; explain that it is illegal, harmful and potentially dangerous. If parents really cannot talk to their teens about this subject, they need to ensure that an appropriate adult does have the discussion, in order to protect the teenager.

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