(photo courtesy of The Mirror UK web site)
This semester I have been working with our Grade 8 science teachers, the school nurse, and other Middle School personnel with our Sexual Health and Reproduction unit with the Grade 8 students. With pornography easily available on the internet, this has changed the ways schools need to support adolescents with this topic. This is much different from previous generations and the viewing of pornographyis getting easier all the time with the advent of mobile devices. Almost all teenagers have seen pornography and that is true with the surveys we did with our grade 8 students. I and most parents wonder what the impact this viewing of pornography, much of it violent or unusual, has on the minds of young people. This article in the New York Times by David Segal, suggests that the academic research on the topic is inconclusive and difficult to study. Segal writes,
Neuroscience tells us that young minds are still forming and thus malleable, and they tend to respond to emotionally charged material in ways that adults don’t. Given that pornography is emotionally charged, it would be shocking if it had no impact.
“I have a son,” says Professor Reid of U.C.L.A., “and I don’t want him getting his information about human sexuality from Internet porn because the vast majority of such material contains fraudulent messages about sex — that all women have insatiable sexual appetites, for example.”
With adolescents viewing more explicit forms of pornography at earlier ages than before, it is vital that schools and parents educate children from a young age about sexual health. Explicit instruction on healthy, emotionally satisfying, and most importantly, respectful sexual relationships needs to occur throughout childhood and adolescents. Teenagers need information and support to make good decisions about engaging in sexual behaviors.
One of the best resources for teens and parents on the internet is the site run by Gary Wilson, www.yourbrainonporn.com. His Tedx Talk, “The Great Porn Experiment” is mandatory watching for parents and teenagers, especially boys. Wilson described the effect pornography has on adolescent brains and the problems associated with excessive exposure to pornography before the age of 22. Some psychologists are reporting arousal addiction has serious negative impacts on boys.
All of us involved in this unit have learned a lot from preparing of the lessons, teaching the classes, receiving feedback from both students and their parents. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things schools can do to help young people. I would even expand the program more to combat the ever-growing pervasiveness of pornography in the lives of teenagers. It should be a mandatory topic for all MYP grade levels. Schools need to help parents in communicating about these topics with their children.