Porn really, really messed up my life in a lot of ways. Nobody knew. By not telling people, it becomes more powerful. But when you put it out there in the open, just like I’m doing right now, it loses its power.
— Terry CREWS
If you’re a whānau/family member and you’ve noticed changes in your child’s behaviour, or you’re a friend or youth professional who’s worried about a young person in your life – here’s some steps we recommend…
1 | Understand the signs
It’s important to understand how porn use can influence changes in behaviour. The following are possible signs of problematic porn consumption in children and young people. These can also be signs of other issues young people may be struggling with, so if you notice any of these, it’s a good idea to talk openly with your young person/friend before jumping to any conclusions.
Signs you may notice in younger children, tweens and teens:
- Closing down web pages quickly, covering up the phone when you walk by
- Becoming uninterested in socialising and choosing to spend more time alone with a device
- An increase in disdainful comments or objectifying others
- An increased use of sexualised language
- Advanced sexual knowledge for age
- Sexual behaviour that isn’t developmentally appropriate
- Sexually violent comments or jokes
- Drawing pornographic images
Other signs teens may be experiencing:
- Needing to watch more and more porn to be satisfied
- Becoming agitated or stressed without access to porn
- Trying to stop watching porn, but not being able to
- Needing to watch increasingly violent and extreme porn to get aroused
- Neglecting other activities as a result of watching porn
2 | Make changes
If you recognise some of these signs in your child, teen or friend and want to help them, we suggest talking to them about the ABCs – Access, Brain and Connect with someone.
If they’re a teen you’re working with, you could suggest that they go straight to the I NEED HELP page. The ABCs are a handy, easy-to-remember way to help someone change their habits around porn:
Limit your access
The most common time to watch porn is 10pm to 12pm, so a simple thing you can do as a family is to leave devices in another room at bedtime. We recommend that adults do this too – it makes a young person feel like you are taking a team approach.
Put a filter on your family Wi-Fi or your teen’s device.
You can use an app for phones or plug in a filtering device to your family modem. We recommend safesurfer.co.nz for filtering support: it’s fast, easy and free.
Remove the internet
If your child/friend has a device with internet capability, suggest they switch to a basic phone without internet. This might make them feel embarrassed among their friends, but it can be one the fastest way to create change.
(KNOWING HOW IT TICKS)
Many young people watch porn because they feel bored, frustrated, lonely or stressed. They use it as a distraction, a comfort or a time filler. This usually leads to arousal and sexual satisfaction which tells their brain that porn is a good thing to use. Over time their brains automatically want porn and every time they use it, it lays down a stronger ‘brain pathway’.
So if you want to help your young person break a problematic porn habit, try discussing the following strategies with them: whenever they feel bored, frustrated, lonely or stressed, suggest going for a run, calling a friend, reading a book or making some food. It may take some time – maybe even months – but with consistent support their brain learns to look for comfort in other things rather than porn.
Suggest to your young person that they find a safe older person they can talk to, as breaking habits alone can be difficult.
This person may not just be you – teenagers often have other safe adults in their lives such as extended family members, school counsellors, youth workers or coaches.
Encourage them to talk regularly with this person, and to text or email them when they’re having difficult moments.