Normal Child Development

Watching a child grow up is an amazing process. When we were expecting our first child, we subscribed to a monthly child development newsletter called The Growing Child. We learned stuff like:

  • When your baby is 4 months old, you can start playing “peek a boo” which teaches the child object permanence (objects still exist even when they are temporarily out of your view).
  • Don’t expect a two year old to understand that other people hurt the same way that he hurts—empathy (and its counterpart sharing) is a concept that doesn’t kick in until about age three.

We learned that the human brain develops certain abilities at certain times.

For example, a young child can learn multiple languages with ease up until about the age of ten. At that point, language acquisition becomes increasingly more difficult.

Child Development and Sexual Exposure

The sexual center of a child’s brain naturally begins to develop sometime between the ages 10 and 12. I say begins because it continues to develop through the teenage years as the child physically matures. Unfortunately, early exposure to pornography can prematurely “sexualize” a child, and, as my co-author  Dr. Gail Poyner says, once you’ve rung that bell, you can’t un-ring it.

Pornography Interferes with Child Development

According to Donna Rice Hughes, president and CEO of Enough is Enough and the author of Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace, pornography can and does interfere with a child’s development and identity. (See full excerpt here.)

During certain critical periods of childhood, a child’s brain is being programmed for sexual orientation. During this period, the mind appears to be developing a “hardwire” for what the person will be aroused by or attracted to.

Exposure to healthy sexual norms and attitudes during this critical period can result in the child developing a healthy sexual orientation. In contrast, if there is exposure to pornography during this period, sexual deviance may become imprinted on the child’s “hard drive” and become a permanent part of his or her sexual orientation.

[P]ornography short-circuits and/or distorts the normal personality development process and supplies misinformation about a child’s sexuality, sense of self, and body that leaves the child confused, changed, and damaged.

Pornography often introduces children prematurely to sexual sensations that they are developmentally unprepared to contend with. This awareness of sexual sensation can be confusing and over stimulating for children.”

The National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence includes pornography as a form of sexual abuse, and lists the harms perpetrated on the young victim.

More severe incidents of sexual abuse, such as incest, rape, sodomy, exposure to pornographic activity or other forms of sexual violence may have a lasting effect on the child. Behavioral problems may include withdrawal, difficulty at school, aggression, running away, nightmares, and extreme anxiety or depression. In some cases symptoms of childhood sexual abuse may not appear until adulthood.

Though every child exposed to porn may not develop a full-blown addiction, it’s clear that exposure to pornography impacts normal child development and confuses a child’s developing brain, including what they accept as sexual norms.

Protecting our Kids

Although we want to protect the innocence and purity of childhood for as long as possible, it is important to begin porn-proofing kids at a fairly young age against the “bad pictures” they might be shown or accidentally come across on an internet-enabled device. If our kids don’t have a cognitive ability to recognize and reject pornography, they may accept porn’s dangerous messages promoting sex without responsibility nor intimacy. Like millions of kids, they may come to believe that violent and deviant sex is normal and something to be mimicked.

In order to assure our kids’ normal child development, we need to protect them as much as possible from explicit sexual exposure, as well as teach them the dangers of viewing pornography.

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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