Online Pornography

Growing Up Online Toolkit for Service Providers

The World Health Organization describes “sexual internet-based preoccupations” (e.g., viewing pornography) as one of the four core concerns of digital technology use among youth. This section of the toolkit focuses on the compulsive use of online pornography by children and youth. This includes children and youth inadvertently exposed to pornography, problematic use of pornography by youth and young adults, and sexting by young people.

Key Learnings or Messages

  • Digital citizenship education is important for children, youth, and families to ensure that the internet is not used to provide sex education in the form of pornography.
  • Pornography as a means of sex education fails to provide a realistic portrayal of intimate relationships and partnered-sex for youth who are sexually inexperienced.
  • The brains of children and youth are more sensitive to dopamine and other neurochemicals, which results in novelty-seeking and makes youth more vulnerable to risks posed by unsolicited, disturbing online content.

Prevalence & Trends

Children and youth of the newer generation are people born between 1995 and 2015. They are currently between the ages of 4 and 24 and have grown up in an online world. Trends show that some individuals have had unprecedented access to pornography and the sharing of sensitive images. At the very least, engagement in viewing pornography will present challenges for some children and youth.

Continuum of Online Pornography

Watching violent online pornography creates associations between sex and violence in the developing adolescent brain. Pornography overstimulates the brain with increased amounts of neurotransmitters and dopamine, stimulating new neural connections that reinforce the experience. The ongoing reinforcement contributes to the user seeking out more explicit content in order to achieve the same level of excitement that was once experienced.

Intervention & Treatment

Various prevention and intervention strategies can be used by service providers in school settings, homes, and communities when working in collaboration with these different systems.

Case Study

The clinical description portrayed is fictional. Any resemblance with real cases are purely coincidental.

Screening & Assessment Tools

There are screening and assessment tools supported by scientific research that can assist service providers with the clinical decision-making process. Before using any instrument, service providers must take into account previous referrals, evaluations, diagnoses, prescribed medications and treatment history. Possibly, service providers can offer different resources such as translation services, social or psychological support, and medical care before entering the screening and assessment process.

Service Provider Resources

This section provides resources and recommendations that address issues related to children’s health and their relationship to the use of online pornography.