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How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex
1. With access to Internet porn through computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions connected to the web, and almost any portal, our
adolescent is exposed in one hour to more “ideal” nude women and
more vivid, intense, novel, and appealing yet shocking sexual stimuli
than any ten adult men of one hundred years ago in their combined
lifetimes. Scientists today are characterizing today’s pornography as a
“superstimulus,” a type of stimulus for which our brains are utterly
unprepared. It is rather like comparing the normal satisfaction of winning a game of tennis to the “high” caused by an injection of the purest
form of heroin.
2. Interpersonally, the more hooked he is on pornography, the more
the young man becomes withdrawn from social interactions. He
fails to develop the social skills necessary to negotiate real relationships. His limited social interactions fail to be even as pleasurable as
they used to be, in part because at the level of the brain, such inter­
actions produce less of a dopamine surge than porn (a process called
desensitization).
3. Craving develops; craving is a compulsive and demanding need for
more of the superstimulus. Habituation develops as well, a gradual
dulling of the chemical response so that more and more extreme
superstimuli are needed to accomplish the same effect. Withdrawal
also occurs when he tries to ­stop—­his cravings intensify and normal
interactions with others utterly fail to provide any relief or satisfaction. All of these are reflected in brain changes.
4. Finally, all of the above contribute to (1) the eroding of the development of ­self-­control and mature judgment (brain studies actually
show diminished neurological development and activity in the frontal cortex of addicts, the place where the brain exercises ­self-­control
and judgment); and (2) dysfunctional stress responses, meaning that
even minor stresses trigger extreme cravings for more pornography.
Our young man can be seen as a sex addict.19 Adolescents are the
most vulnerable to such addiction. The adolescent brain is at its maximal plasticity—­its peak capacity to learn and adapt quickly by forming
new neuron ­connections—­and as a result, the addiction becomes more
deeply rooted in the brain and will take longer to change or heal than in
adults.
18 4

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