In October of this year, the American College of Pediatricians published a statement on their website regarding the impact of pornography on children. This statement, written by Dr. L David Perry, summarized the current research on the effects of exposure to pornography on children and concluded that pornography is harmful to children.
The position statement focused particularly on research focused on how children (not adults) are impacted by exposure to pornography. Young children appear to have emotional distress upon exposure to pornography, including embarrassment, shock, disgust or fear. There is also some evidence that children can become obsessed with the acts they have seen online and attempt to re-enact them. This can lead to the victimization of other children.
This summary does not present this data for the first time. However it is perhaps the first time that pediatricians are being exposed to the data. The statement concludes by saying that pediatricians should be equipped to discuss pornography with parents and help them limit their young children’s exposure to pornography.
This position paper brings up yet another avenue in which we need to open up the discussion of pornography and sexting. Traditionally, these issues may or may not be brought up at home or in school. If parents have a worry about their child’s behavior, they may seek professional mental health counseling. I do not think that pornography exposure is something that is traditionally brought up duruing a pediatric doctor appointment. It should be! The more we talk about these issues, the more we end up talking about sexuality with children. This reduces the risk of stigma and shame and increases the chances of your children engaging in healthy sexual behavior throughout their lifetime.
This post is truly just to say thank you to the American College of Pediatricians for being forward thinking and taking the risk to talk about pornography exposure and children. If more doctors come to understand these issues, we will have one more venue in which we can educate children and help those who may be struggling.
For more articles on this topic, please see The New Age of Sex Education.