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Is a child’s brain affected or even altered by the “soft-core” sexualized images that are all around us? And if so, what are the long-term effects of porn exposure for that child and for our society at large? Could it be that we’re in the midst of a public health crisis?

That’s what Dr. Jenny Brown, a dentist in Bountiful, Utah and busy mom to young boys, wanted to find out.

Jenny Brown with son

After years of research (much of it done late at night after her kids were in bed), Dr. Brown has carefully pieced together a body of research* (see below for a link to her paper) documenting this alarming conclusion:

Exposure to soft-core porn negatively affects a child’s developing brain.

On a recent trip to Utah, I was able to talk with her about her research, which she is currently preparing to submit for publication in the journal of Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology.

Sobering Conclusions

Here are a few of Dr. Brown’s findings:

  • Children exposed to sexual images experience “neurological stress” —their brains are simply not mature enough to handle the “neurochemical blitz” brought on by exposure to soft-core porn.
  • The part of their brain called the basal ganglia (we call it the feeling brain) which is involved with more reflexive, instinctive, and impulsive behavior is made stronger as a child is exposed to more and more sexualized images.
  • As the feeling brain gains strength and efficiency, the pre-frontal cortex (or thinking braindecreases in response to viewing sexually explicit images. Not good because the thinking brain is the part of the brain that “overrides immediate gratification and augments self-control.” (Learn more about your two brains here.)
  • Continued exposure to pornography “causes the viewer to become more impulsive and less able to critically think” (among other problems).

Dr. Brown wants her work to help legislatures pass laws to protect kids from what she and many other experts feel is a public health crisis brought on by pornography.

But in the meantime, what can you do to protect your kids?

Your Plan of Action

happy kid with magnifying glass

Begin by looking at your world through your child’s eyes. Ask yourself:

  • Where does my child get exposed to sexualized media? Make a list of offenders. (Grocery store magazines, catalogs, TV, movies, malls, billboards, online ads, etc.)
  • What can I do to limit the amount of sexualized media my child is exposed to? (One of the grocery stores I used to shop at had “Family Friendly” checkout lines that didn’t have risqué mags displayed—you can ask your local store to provide the same option. I know this is just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start!)
  • How can I help my child understand that sexualized media is inappropriate? (Explain the lack of privacy, dignity, respect for our bodies which they portray.)

Just like we “child-proof” our homes to keep little children out of danger, we can work to “porn-proof” our environments to protect the developing minds of our kids.

What have you tried? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment–working together we can better protect our kids.

*Read Dr. Brown’s entire draft of The Physiological Effects of Innocent Exposure to Soft-core Pornography on the Developing Brain. (Dr. Brown gave us permission to share it on ProtectYoungMinds.)

Do you have friends or family who could use some help porn-proofing their kids?

Let them know about Porn-Proof Kids!

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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