An Escalating Issue: Pornography in the 21st Century

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As teachers in the twenty-first century we are confronted by an increasingly complex world. Our students are influenced in many ways by the times in which they live; not the least of this is the pervasive influence of the internet through social media and the prevalence of pornography. Whether we are aware or not, increasingly larger numbers of increasingly younger students are being affected by viewing pornography. Some students are motivated by curiosity, some are introduced to it by peers or siblings, and some unintentionally stumble across it. The way a child is introduced to pornography is of little relevance when we come to an understanding of the way it changes their brain and behaviour, and affects relationships.  Many students will testify that once their viewing behaviour becomes entrenched, they experience lack of motivation and other symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is widely documented by the scientific literature. 

While there is a 'profile' of students most likely to become enmeshed in this practice, no student is exempt from the possibility. Statistics are frightening. It is a global problem which is reported to be escalating. In the study carried out by Rev Marshall Ballantine-Jones among ninth graders, 85% of boys and 45% of girls reported having been exposed to pornographic material. The average age of the first viewing was approximately 12 years of age. This means that children as young as five are being exposed so no teacher is exempt from the possibility of dealing with a young person who is demonstrating behaviours that result from their exposure to pornographic material. It was certainly the case among Primary-aged students at my school where grade five boys were exhibiting such behaviours.

Some would argue that it is normal for adolescents, especially boys to be curious about sexuality and interested in learning more about it. All the more reason to be alert to the dangers of pornography as it models unhealthy sexual behaviours and practices that are increasingly extreme and often involve aggression against women. The risks of students being exposed to this material are increasing and the consequences on their well-being and their relationships are well documented. Science shows that ongoing exposure results in changed neural pathways in the brain and addiction akin to drug addiction.

It is important that teachers and parents are well informed about this issue and well prepared to be proactive in helping their young people to be prepared to live safely in the twenty-first century.


Online Professional Learning Courses

This article provides an insight into some of the content of EdComm's online Professional Learning course: Exposed: The effect of pornography and sexualised media on students.

Exposed: The effect of pornography and sexualised media on students is an eight-hour, online course. It gives eight hours of NESA-accredited learning at the Proficient level.