Pornography and Your Teen’s Brain

By the time most  children reach the age of 11, statistics show that more than likely they have already been exposed to some form of pornography.  While most exposures occur through emails, social media, or ads on the internet, many kids easily access pornographic images, movies and programs through the television.  With over 372 million pornographic webpages available through the Internet, it is abundant and readily available to children and teenagers with very little effort.  Because of the impossibility of being able to completely shield kids from ever seeing pornographic pictures or movies, more than ever before parents must be aware of its impact and begin to effectively address this problem.

Through the years  many have debated, downplayed, or even dismissed the possibility that pornography could negatively effect an individual and/or their relationships with others.  But as God continues to allow scientists to understand more and more about the human brain, we are now able to gain a clearer and more accurate picture of the negative impact that pornography has on the mind. Because the brain is involved in everything we do, whatever impacts the brain also greatly influences other areas in a person’s life.

Using fMRIs and other investigative measures, researchers are able to identify the powerful combination of sexual hormones and other neurotransmitters released while an individual views pornographic images.  These are very similar to the sequence that occurs in the brain when a person experiences heightened excitement and pleasure from substances like heroine and cocaine.  Because the brain is designed to record and remember pleasurable encounters, the individual begins to crave more encounters hoping to replicate the euphoric experience once again.  Similar to other addictive cycles, however, the brain slowly begins to become less satisfied unless the new experience is more intense, stimulating or thrilling than the one before.  Over time this neural pathway in the brain becomes reinforced and preferred which  leads a person to greatly desire this activity over others.  This is how the vicious addictive cycle slowly begins to control the heart and mind.

Aside from the research that is revealing how and why the brain becomes quickly addicted to pornography,  there is another critical dilemma that must be mentioned as well.  When an individual is watching any activity, specialized cells in the brain called mirror neurons store behavioral or motor  information that is later accessed to be able to mimic the previously observed behavior.   Because pornography offers the brain a perverted, immoral and often violent representation of sex and sexuality, this will now be a major part of the template the viewer will access and use  to powerfully shape and influence his/her own behaviors and attitudes related to attachments, sexuality, the purpose of sex, the value of women, and the nature of intimate relationships.  If this still doesn’t shock you or cause your heart to sink, consider this.  The largest consumers of internet pornography are between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age.  Think of the millions of pre-teens and teens whose brains have begun to daily crave pornography and whose minds now have a gravely skewed,  immoral and perverted imprint for sex and sexuality in relationships.

What I find most interesting about the vast majority of the research, documentaries and articles is that, for the most part, these inquiries are not being conducted by Christians or a moral majority who are intent on proving a point.  Instead, most of the neuro-scientific research, reports and documentaries are being completed by scientists, social scientists and journalists who are interested in understanding what may be lurking behind the exploding interest in pornography.  Pornography is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide ($57 billion)  with revenues in the US alone exceeding those of  ABC, NBC and CBS combined ($12 billion, with $3 billion solely from child pornography).  While it is difficult to gather sound statistics regarding the numbers of individuals who are reportedly addicted to pornography, the negative impact of  pornography is now being substantiated by an abundance of  research.  I am certain there isn’t a marriage therapist or pastor who wouldn’t agree that pornography is overwhelmingly linked to the problems and ultimate demise of many, many marriages and families, both in and out of the church community.

A few decades ago scientists were also very helpful in clearly pinpointing the effects of drug and alcohol use on the brain and the body.  In response to this information millions of dollars began to be poured into prevention programs to educate and deter kids and teens from using drugs and alcohol.  Proactive parents didn’t wait for their kids to hear this information from their local DARE program.  Instead, they knew this was ultimately their responsibility to have planned and spontaneous conversations with their kids about the risks and consequences of drug use.  While this problem may seem very different, the grave impact on the brain, body and quality of life also exists with regard to the problem of pornography.  Preventive and educational programs may never be implemented in the public school systems,  but if they ever are I am quite certain they will be not presented from a biblical world view.

Parents, I implore you to begin this critical conversation with your kids and keep it going throughout their adolescence and young adulthood.  Yes, we can safeguard our homes to make it difficult for our kids to access pornographic images through social media or other outlets.  That will never be sufficient.  We must have consistent and directed dialogue with both our sons and daughters to protect them and their future families from the serious impact that pornography has on the brain of both the young and the old. Regularly, take the the time to teach your teens that…

  • pornography can actually change their brain, increasing their desire for more and leaving behind a neurological template about sex and sexuality that is distorted, perverted and in complete opposition to God’s plan. 
  • pornography, like every other perversion, is one more byproduct of sinful man living in a fallen world.  (Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 6:18-20)
  • they were created in God’s image, which means they will always have a deep yearning for intimacy in relationships. This desire stems from a deeper desire to know and be known.  (Genesis 1:26)
  •  their sin nature will lure them away from God’s design for anything, including sex. (Galatians 5:16-21)
  • they are in a spiritual battle every day against an Enemy who desires to destroy their body, heart, mind, and soul and that pornography is one of the many ways he is attempting to do that.  (Ephesians 6:11-17)
  • God is faithful to convict His children when they are tempted and will always provide them with a way of escape if they yield to Him. (I Corinthians 10:13)
  • pornography offers only a  false sense of intimacy, which always leads to increased emptiness, loneliness, guilt and shame.
  • if they do succumb to the temptation to view or even participate in pornography, they are not neurologically doomed and God can set them free from their addiction but they must confess their sin and consistently yield to God and His plan for their life.  (I John 1:9)
  • they will never be fully satisfied when they seek anything apart from God and His will for their life. (John 4:13-15; Philippians 4:19)


I don’t know about the teens in your life,  but mine need to hear things repeatedly so they can wrestle, debate and hopefully absorb what is being said to them.  In order for teenagers to truly assimilate these and other related biblical truths, one conversation will just not cut it.  We must engage in ongoing conversation about this and equip our kids to resist the temptation to minimize and/or engage in pornographic activities.

The truths about pornography and its destructive effect on the mind, body, heart, and soul are not being taught in their school.  Most of your teen’s peers are ignorant of these truths and for many different reasons most churches tend to avoid discussion about this problem as well.  So, who will tell your sons and daughters about God’s perfect plan for life, for intimacy, for relationships?  Who will fight for their minds and hearts so that they can be shielded from the devastating effect of pornography?  

Pray, ask the Lord for guidance, for opportunity, for spiritual insight and for compassion as you take the initiative to begin a conversation with your teen about a toxic problem that is daily impacting the brain of millions of young people and as a result destroying lives, marriages and families around the globe.

For other helpful articles on this topic, click on the links below.

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