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Study: More teens turning to porn, experts worry it'll have lasting and damaging effects

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By KELLEE AZAR, KATU

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - A new study from Indiana State University found teens are watching more and more pornography at startling rates.

The study says boys as young as 13 and girls as young as 14 admit to watching porn.

That may be because a third of teens have a smartphone with instant access to an internet overrun with porn.

“Some states and areas are considering exposure to porn a public health issue,” Marieka Ferrenkopf, a licensed social worker, said.

Farrenkopf has worked extensively with teens and said the exposure to porn could lead to lasting effects on young, impressionable minds.

“It is changing the chemistry of the brain. For teenagers to think this is the way they are supposed to act and this is the way sex is supposed to be, it can be damaging for the growing brain,” Farrenkopf said.

But why are more teens turning to porn? You can thank smartphones for that.

“Porn and all that stuff is being sent to them daily, you know, online, through YouTube videos and television,” Karen Rendon, the parent of a 15-year-old girl, said.

Rendon wants her daughter to grow up confident, knowing her worth. She started having “tough” conversations with her daughter when she was just 10 years old.

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“I want her to understand [watching porn] could cause more damage to her future and to her emotional being,” Rendon said.

Farrenkopf said this worry is legitimate; porn could ruin future relationships.

“Porn is not real. There are lights, makeup, a director … it’s not true intimacy and it’s not compassion,” Farrenkopf said.

She said some teens think what they see under the bright lights is what they should expect in life.

“I want the boys to know this isn't what they should expect in their own sexual life and partners. I want the girls to know this is not real, this is not what real girls [look] like or how sex is supposed to be,” Farrenkopf said.

It may be tough, but Farrenkopf said parents should be candid and speak openly with their teens.

A good time to start talking openly to your kids about pornography is when they go to middle school.

It’s important to talk to kids about porn being staged and not a form of real or genuine intimacy, Farrenkopf emphasized.

To get the conversation going, Farrenkopf recommends asking kids what they know first to get the conversation going. She also said it’s important to tell the kids they won’t be judged or get in trouble for opening up.

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