Youth ‘at risk to ad­dic­tion’

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - ALAS­TAIR LYNN

Ad­dic­tion, un­healthy re­la­tion­ships and ris­ing lev­els of sex­ual abuse in youth is the re­al­ity of easy ac­cess to porno­graphic ma­te­rial.

Auckland-based clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Rebecca Daly-Peo­ples says the na­ture of the in­ter­net re­stricts op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­dress the is­sue within a fam­ily con­text.

‘‘It’s com­pletely in­flu­enc­ing the en­tire way they’re see­ing sex and in­ti­macy,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s not just about teach­ing young girls about de­fend­ing them­selves, it’s also about teach­ing young men to treat their peers with re­spect.’’

Re­search from Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity in Lon­don has in­di­cated about 53 per cent of 11 to 16-yearolds have ac­cessed ex­plicit ma­te­rial on­line.

Daly-Peo­ples says ac­cess from such a young age is warp­ing per­cep­tions of sex and in­ti­macy.

‘‘Th­ese are not static images, they’re graphic and a lot are quite bru­tal. It doesn’t present a con­sen­sual re­la­tion­ship.

‘‘One of the re­ally big con­cerns is that the ado­les­cent brain is the most at-risk to ad­dic­tion.’’

Dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a teenage brain the ar­eas as­so­ci­ated with plan­ning and in­hi­bi­tion are not func­tion­ing cor­rectly.

‘‘When peo­ple are watch­ing porn cer­tain ar­eas are stim­u­lated which pro­motes an ad­dic­tion.

‘‘If that’s hap­pen­ing to young peo­ple on the cusp of adult­hood then we’re set­ting them up for dan­ger­ous and un­healthy re­la­tion­ships right off the bat.’’

Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions provider Sling­shot found 75 per cent of Kiwi par­ents are con­cerned their chil­dren have ac­cess to on­line pornog­ra­phy.

Fam­ily friendly on­line fil­ters can block out in­ap­pro­pri­ate or dan­ger­ous ma­te­rial, but Da­lyPeo­ples says this is not enough - ed­u­ca­tion is the an­swer.

‘‘Sex­ual abuse of peers has in­creased three times over the past decade,’’ she says.

‘‘A form of sex ed­u­ca­tion needs to start quite young. We re­ally need to start teach­ing young peo­ple about con­sent and what that means.

In 2015 the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion up­dated its guide­lines on teach­ing sex­u­al­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Daly-Peo­ples says schools can’t take sole re­spon­si­bil­ity.

‘‘Par­ents and adults don’t want to be­lieve that it’s that bad.

‘‘It’s a so­cial is­sue and we need to start hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions with our kids.’’

PHOTO: ALAS­TAIR LYNN

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Rebecca Daly-Peo­ples says ed­u­ca­tion is key to en­sure youth de­velop healthy and mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships.

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