DEAR KELLY: I know my little brother watches porn all the time. I walked into his room about a month ago to get a phone charger and saw live porn on his laptop. He didn’t seem too freaked out. He just told me to get out.
Then I needed to borrow his laptop to print something, and there were so many porn pop-ups that I know he must look at it all the time. I’ve also seen it on his phone.
My parents would freak if they knew this was going on. I guess they might know and just aren’t doing anything. He’s in his room all the time and never comes out to sit with our family to watch a movie or anything. He used to have friends at school and be normal, but now he just looks at his phone and on his laptop in his dark room all the time and never does anything with his friends.
My mom tells her friends he games all the time, but I honestly think he’s watching porn most of the time. When I mentioned it to a friend, he said all guys do it, so it wasn’t a big deal and I shouldn’t tell my parents. So I’m confused and not sure what to do. Is it normal for a 14-year-old to watch porn all the time and become like a social weirdo? How do I help my parents see that this is not OK?
Dear A: Let’s be clear: No, it is not normal for a 14-year-old to live in his room and watch porn all day. It’s normal for your brother to be curious about sex, his sexuality or the female body, but it’s not normal to shut himself up in his room and escape life by watching porn all day. Not only is this emotionally unhealthy, it also could be an addiction, and your brother’s involvement with pornography could be way deeper than you or your parents can even imagine.
It is probably safe to say many teenage boys have looked at porn. Because of its incredibly easy accessibility (thank you, smartphones), boys can look up pornography 24/7 and it’s just a click away. It’s like having an X-rated theater in your back pocket. It is inexpensive, easy to access and easy to hide. Statistics show boys are more likely to seek out porn than girls. There is a growing number of adolescent boys who are addicted to pornography. To be fair, some boys watch it and move on, while others develop an insatiable need to see more.
Your brother’s frequent porn watching is causing him to be isolated. This may perpetuate loneliness, compulsion and confusion with his sexuality. He’s displaying signs of potential depression by withdrawing from his friends and family and disconnecting from social connections with people. His screen is becoming his social world, and nothing about that is healthy. The dangers of unwanted sexual solicitation are also high. Your brother is at risk of connecting with sexual predators or doing something that can be used against him in the future as social blackmail.
The struggles of constantly watching pornography extend beyond just what he is seeing and have a deeper effect on the watcher’s outlook of relationships and healthy sexuality. A Psychology Today blog post (October 2011) shared these thoughts about teenagers and pornography: “When an adolescent boy compulsively views pornography, his brain chemistry can become shaped around the attitudes and situations that he is watching. Sadly, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality and relationships that can create an expectation for real-life experiences that will never be fulfilled.”
You bring up a good point: Do your parents know and just turn a blind eye to the whole issue? It’s possible. Again, many parents hope this is merely a “stage” he is going through and hang onto the hope that he will grow out of this period. While that can happen, it also might not, and your brother could suffer greatly if this issue is not addressed. Can you talk with them and share your concerns? Are they aware of what is happening, or are they just calling it “normal” to avoid the uncomfortable conversation?
Some people or particular cultures are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, so they prefer to leave it up to friends or the internet to explain things to their children. They believe the school of life teaches their children what they need to know and avoid talking about the serious issues related to sexuality with their kids. If your parents fall into this category, find someone else to help with this situation.
If your parents refuse to address what is going on, ask them if you can speak with a family counselor. Or talk with an uncle or aunt who cares about your brother and sees the changes in him. If you go to church, a youth pastor or elder can help with this as well. If all else fails, talk with your school counselor and have them direct you in how to talk with your parents and offer support if they will talk with someone from the school. Most schools are very aware of what is going on with internet pornography and can guide you and your family to helpful resources.
You don’t want to shame your brother but rather find someone who can help you approach him from a place of compassion and understanding about what might be going on. There is a chance your brother needs help stopping this and can’t do it by himself. Also, if he is struggling with depression, that needs to be addressed, and he needs a support system to help with how he deals with his feelings and learn healthy ways to express himself.
Speak up until someone figures out what is going on with your brother. Be confident that your concerns are valid. It takes courage and love for your brother to be aware that something is not right and to reach out to get him help.