Why more teens are turning to pornography to learn about sex

When you walk by a high school, or even many junior highs, you’ll notice a trend. Students with cellphones in hand.

Technology has made almost anything and everything easily accessible. Including pornography.

“I felt very disconnected to my own sexuality just seeing porn for the first time,” said Teela.

Teela was 13 years old when she first watched pornography. Global News has agreed not to use her last name. She says she was curious about sex, and the information she was seeking wasn’t being taught in school or talked about at home.

“There’s a communication barrier between a lot of parents and teenagers,” Teela said. “Pornography shouldn’t be the first place teens go to to find education, which they often do because it’s so accessible.”

Teela is not alone. A 2014 study by MediaSmarts surveyed students Grades 7 to 11. It found 23 per cent of teens — nearly one in four — were seeking out pornography online. And 88 per cent of boys who look at porn do so at least once a month. Some studies show the numbers are even higher.

“We can sensor teens all we want as parents,” said Mark Lenyk with Mankind Project.

“But in the end there’s going to be some friend or some point where they’re going to have access to the internet and they have questions nobody is talking to them about.”

Another study found adolescents who watch pornography are sexually active at an earlier age, have higher numbers of partners and have increased casual sex. It also found girls who watch pornography feel less attractive than the women portrayed in pornographic material and boys are afraid they will not measure up to the performers in the media.

“It causes teens to make decisions – reckless and shallow decisions – about their sexuality,” Teela said. “Boys feel like they have to have this sort of stigma. They have to be tough and emotionless, and girls have to be submissive.”

Teela eventually went to see Sabrina Souto, the owner of Fertile Way. Souto works with people of all ages struggling with their sexual well-being.

“When you watch something over and over again it becomes familiar,” Souto said. “So as a woman you learn how to act a certain way, how to talk a certain way, how to sound a certain way. As a man, the same exact thing.”

Souto believes it all comes down to having open and honest conversations with your children.

“Talk to your teens. Getting educated in what intimacy really looks like is key.”

Souto says it’s the lack of communication that is the biggest issue and she knows it’s not an easy topic to discuss. She recently held a screening of Brain, Heart, World a documentary looking at the harmful effects of pornography.

In 2017, another documentary, Over 18, was released, also looking at the porn industry and how easily children can become addicted.

Teela is now 17 years old and when she talks to her mom, nothing is off limits.

“When you tiptoe around difficult topics like sex it becomes a forbidden topic. You can’t expect the teen to come forward and be honest with you if you’re not being honest with them.”

It’s a message she hopes other parents will take to heart.

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