* Pornography Viewing Starts as Early as Elementary School

By Amy Steele, LCSW – June 5, 2018 –

Surprisingly, the average age of a child the first time they see internet pornography is 11 years.  Kids don’t have to be looking for pornography; it is programmed to find them.

To think that it won’t happen to your child leaves them at risk for stumbling upon sexually-explicit material online (whether they are looking for it or not) that they are not developmentally able to handle, emotionally or mentally.

Tweens and teens are at the age of natural curiosity about sex. When presented with the opportunity and such easy access, many are choosing to view pornography – and doing it more than once.  Today’s porn content is drastically more graphic, violent, deviant and destructive than anything ever seen before.

Highly sexualized, violent material poses many risks for a developing brain.  In the adolescent years when brains are still developing, viewing porn can deform the pleasure centers of their brain.

Neurological research has found that pornography is particularly addictive because of the neuro-chemical release in the brain that occurs while viewing it.  For many youth, the euphoric “high” that occurs quickly develops into a coping style for escaping emotional distress.

Studies have shown that kids who viewed pornography for hours each week have less gray matter in their brain than those who did not view it.  This means there are fewer neurons and neuro-connectivity in the pleasure centers of the brain, leaving the brain craving more while making it harder for the same images to provide pleasure.

Therefore, young viewers seek more graphic and violent content, an indicator of addiction.  Males make up the majority of those addicted to pornography, but females are also addicted.

Youth that view pornography once a month or more are at a greater risk of developing depression, anxiety, sexually permissive attitudes, preoccupation with sex, inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, unrealistic ideas about sexual relationships, insecurities about body images in females and insecurities about sexual performance in males.

As an adult, they are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouse.  Fifty-six percent of divorce cases involve one party having obsessive interest in online pornography.  With the increase of internet pornography and pornography addictions, there has been an increase in violent sex crimes, an increase in child pornography, and sex trafficking is at an all-time high.

Parents, it’s time to let LOVE overpower the discomfort of discussing this topic. Talk to your tweens and teens about pornography.  Keep revisiting it; this is not a one-time conversation.

Look for teachable moments in the media and daily life.  Remind your child of your family values.  Tell kids where pornography may pop up online and what to do if they find it – turn it off and talk to a trusted adult.

Reassure them they will not be in trouble if they come to you right away.  Teach them about responsible online behavior and rules.  Establish house/family rules such as computers/laptops must be in main living areas; devices must be kept out of bedrooms; phones must be turned into parents at night for charging.  Block pop-ups on computers.

Most importantly: Frequently check kids’ phones, tablets and computers. Read their texts and emails.  Look at their pictures, social media and other apps.  This is not an invasion of privacy.  It is your responsibility as a parent to keep your tween or teen safe in the age of technology.

* Emotionally Preparing Your Child for Standardized Testing

By Amy Steele, LCSW, Courier & Press, February 28, 2017 –

The pressure children feel from standardized testing can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.  While low levels of anxiety can motivate students to study and perform well, severe anxiety can make it difficult for a child to go about their daily activities.

Some students experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomachaches, headaches, feeling too hot or too cold, or feeling like their heart is beating rapidly.  Others experience emotional symptoms such as “blanking out,” having difficulty paying attention, or experiencing trouble thinking clearly.  If your child describes these symptoms, talk to their teacher and the school social worker or school counselor about ways to help them.

Start preparing your child emotionally by understanding their feelings.  Talk to them about their feelings about the upcoming test, listen for the level of confidence they seem to have, and ask them what about the test worries them.

Particularly during times of stress, children need extra comfort, nurturing and understanding to help them feel secure and confident.  Build time into the day to give them some one-on-one attention.

Encouraging your child to talk about how they feel and listening to them with empathy assures them their feelings are normal.  Let them know you have confidence in them and believe they can do it.  Help them rehearse positive thoughts and statements, such as “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll show what I know.”

Teach them ways to relax or stay calm before or during the test by practicing at home, possibly before bedtime.  Have the child take a slow deep breath while spelling out their name, one slow deep breath as they say or think each letter.  Another way to help them relax is to talk through and imagine a scenario where they go to school, have a good day and feel calm as they take the test and do well.

Remind your child of the strengths, talents, and personal qualities that make them special and unique. Make sure they know those qualities go far beyond what a standardized test can measure.  Be specific so they can remember these valued qualities when they need to remember them most.

Finally, express your unconditional love to your child.  This gives them confidence, security and a relational bond that is a great boost for their hearts and their brains.