Youth ‘at risk to addiction’
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.’’
Clinical psychologist Rebecca Daly-Peoples says education is key to ensure youth develop healthy and meaningful relationships.