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June 26, 2012

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The type of parents who are so overprotective that they spy on their kids are the kind who also say no to parties, no to girlfriends, no to boyfriends, etc. In other words they set up their children for a lifetime of social and sexual frustration. Not even being able to access porn will probably provoke suicides.

"Is there any scientific evidence about harm caused to kids if they view porn?" - Half Sigma


As a millennial I don't think porn was harmful to me. More harmful was all the leftist social engineering I was raised on.

"I do know that when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have liked my parents doing that."

No doubt you also disliked whatever restrictions they did put on you for your own good -- but it's hardly the point that you disliked them. The point is that their judgment and authority was, quite naturally and properly, superior to yours.

Yes, there is scientific evidence that porn is bad for you -- but for that matter, TV and the internet and video games are also bad for you.

Well as a teenager there was the harm of jerking off to internet porn so much that my attempts on actual girls were lazy and lacking a certain fire. I wish my parents had been less clueless about the dangers of internet addiction back then...

What's it got to do with porn? Parents, at least the upper middle class types that NYT exists for, are terrified their Kirstens are going to end up turning tricks for some pimp. They realize that popular culture is now all about glorifying anything black, meaning young girls have fewer natural defenses against imprecations to "just be cool baby."

"Parents, at least the upper middle class types that NYT exists for, are terrified their Kirstens are going to end up turning tricks for some pimp. They realize that popular culture is now all about glorifying anything black, meaning young girls have fewer natural defenses against imprecations to "just be cool baby.""

This is about 180 degrees backwards. Wealthy and upper middle class types are insulated enough and secure enough in their class trajectories that they can listen to rap, hip-hop, etc., without any ill effects. It's a playful pose for them, not a lifestyle choice.

Porn is a very, very low priority here. The two things parents are concerned about are 1.)kids getting into trouble via social networking and 2.) kids (girls anyway) becoming sexually active. I'm sure when you were a kid, there were people your parents preferred you not hang out with. Now multiply that by millions. Being male, they probably weren't that concerned about you becoming sexually active, but that sort of thing can cause complications for girls that it doesn't for boys.

Most kids can be trusted to keep any personally identifiable information off their Youtube page, etc, but I don't think it's helicopter parenting to keep an eye on that sort of thing.

FWIW, I'm not aware of call recording capability, but monitoring text messages is all you really need (as long as they don't know about it).

I have a 14 year old and a 12 year old. We don't spy on them. It saddens me that they can see sick stuff, but I can no more protect them from it than I can myself, except by such cultural inoculation as I can provide. If we noticed they were being affected, we'd take action. So far, so good, as far as I can tell.

I would recommend never doing this. Things that seem like a big deal to parents art often a passing fancy or a joke to teens. Not everything a teen does or says is to be taken earnestly or at face value. And teens are smart enough to know there's irony behind certain bad song lyrics. (Just because I loved the first Ramones album didn't mean I was gonna sniff glue or beat on brats with a baseball bat.)

The way I see it is that there is a whole child correction industry. Spy on your kids, get them counseling, then put them in a "therapeutic school." It's a racket, IMO. People profit, but it's all to keep the kids "safe." Give me a break. We survived the '80s without this crap.

And if my ex hadn't fallen into this trap -- which started with recording my stepson's phone calls -- I'd be writing this in the house we had to sell to because of this stuff instead of a post-divorce condo. None of it did any good, by the way.

"Is there any scientific evidence about harm caused to kids if they view porn?" -- HS

--------------------------

I had a porn collection when I was 10. But I neither had sex early nor was I promiscuous in spite of having opportunities most guys would have jumped at. Moreover, I've been happily married for years and would never even consider cheating. So I would hardly consider myself to have been "harmed" by it.

On the other hand, I know a guy who says he found his parents' porn collection and would watch it after school before they came home. He claims it messed him up. Then again, the guy also had a $40K gambling debt, filed bankruptcy and knocked a girl up by the time he graduated college. So clearly the guy has issues with self control.

My personal opinion is that porn is like anything else be it alcohol, tobacco, drugs,gambling, etc. Whether it causes someone problems depends a lot on the individual. And like alcohol, tobacco and drugs; some people may be able to use it and be fine but its still not a ~good~ thing.

I would also like to make a critical distinctin. I went out and got the magazines on my own. It wasn't pushed on me by older boys or adults. If it had been that would have been different.

Porn addiction leads to relationship, intimacy and physiological issues, such as ED and withdrawals.

Smart phones can be easily tracked through GPS or lost&found apps, while parental control can be used to block websites.

Parents spying and tracking kids isn't an issue, when the real parent aka "big brother" is doing it to everyone. Drones will be always watching you.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/7/coming-to-a-sky-near-you/

The first story in the NYT article is not an instance of spying. The girls put videos on YouTube for everyone to see.

Restrictions on app purchases by children is also not spying.

Tracking location and monitoring conversations are instances of spying. That is not the best way to instill discipline. Spying only encourages more stealth. A better way would be an occasional spot check, followed by punishment for infractions.

Dr Anonymous

Sig was asking if kids seeing porn actually harms them. That's a little different than being a porn addict. I just googled "porn addiction" and saw that it can mess up dopamine levels. Dopamine is involved in many kinds of addiction including gambling and drugs. So I guess that explains why my friend had so much trouble with both porn and gambling. He and I used to go to a casino a couple of times a week for several months. At the end he'd lost 40k and I was even. I just enjoyed black jack the way most people enjoy solitaire. Apparently there was a lot more to it for him.

Interestingly, the way dopamine works is that people get desensitized so the stimuli needs to be more and more extreme to get a thrill. For gamblers that would probably mean riskier bets with larger sums. For porn that would probably mean wilder and kinkier ish. No wonder porn keeps getting more extreme. It's come a long way from the days of Playboy when the most they'd show was a little bush. I've always been from the 'less is more' school of thought.

I imagine having the proper internet filters would render internet spying unnecessary.

"Is there any scientific evidence about harm caused to kids if they view porn?"

In the book "Harmful to Minors," Judith Levine surveys the research - though I can't say how comprehensively - and concludes that there is no solid evidence that kids are harmed by exposure to porn.

I have not spied on my kids. The temptation was strong and I had all the know-how to pull it without them ever suspecting anything. However, knowing how much I would have hated my parents doing something like this to me, I just decided not to. It's like secretly reading someone's diary - feels very wrong.

"But strangely, there’s no app that records your kids’ phone calls so you can listen to them later."

If your kid didn't know about it, it would be illegal in all 50 states. If your kid knew, but the person on the other end didn't know, it would still be illegal in 12 states.

"Wealthy and upper middle class types are insulated enough and secure enough in their class trajectories that they can listen to rap, hip-hop, etc., without any ill effects."

I'm sure that's what Ben Goldsmith thought as well...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2154255/Devastated-Ben-Goldsmith-blasts-wife-Twitter-affair-rapper-ended-marriage-Rothschild-heiress.html

I would argue that teen pregnancy is a bigger problem for boys than for girls. After all, girls can choose if they remain pregnant; boys have no say in the matter.

Mangans has a long post on the evils of porn that is well worth reading!

http://mangans.blogspot.com/2012/06/food-and-porn-as-supernormal-stimuli.html

Spy on your own kids: A concerned parent.

Spy on other people's kids: Pervert!

The world is so unfair.

"I have not spied on my kids. The temptation was strong and I had all the know-how to pull it without them ever suspecting anything. However, knowing how much I would have hated my parents doing something like this to me, I just decided not to. It's like secretly reading someone's diary - feels very wrong."

I hated it when my parents made me go to bed at a reasonable time. I hated it when my parents made me eat nutritious meals instead of junk food. I hated it when my parents made me go to school and do my homework. I hated it when my parents wouldn't buy me all the toys I wanted. I hated it when my parents wouldn't let me stay out all night as a teenager. The list goes on and on.

That kids hate something that is necessary for their health, safety, or personal development has to be the DUMBEST EXCUSE EVER for abdicating your responsibility as a parent.

"If your kid didn't know about it, it would be illegal in all 50 states"

Is that true in the case of a minor child using a device owned by the parent? Based on a quick check, there seems to be some question, either on reasonable expectation of privacy grounds, or because it's a minor over whom you have power of attorney(?). Also, at least one state (Arizona) specifically permits this practice.

Half -- You're a lawyer; any thoughts?

[HS: With respect to the child's parent, the law treats the child more like a slave than a free person. So no, I don't think it's illegal to look through your kid's stuff, either physically or using high-tech snooping.]

I think J1 has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Porn is, for most parents, a low priority. They are likely more concerned about the things J1 mentioned.

Helicopter parents who are so neurotic as to obsessively monitor every aspect of their kids' behavior are bound to pass on some messed up traits to their children. Heredity confounds every look at parenting.

As for porn, there is perhaps a tiny minority of true porn addicts. Porn in this respect is like drugs or alcohol: only people predisposed to become addicted do.

destructure explained perfectly the problems of blaming a screwed up personality on porn.

Razib Khan (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/05/porn-a-new-age-an-old-age-and-all-that/ ) and Dennis Mangan (http://mangans.blogspot.com/2012/06/opiate-of-male-masses.html ) have posts which seem to be polar opposites on the issue of porn. Both are worth reading, but I'd side with Razib. Porn is simply no substitute for real sex nor will it ever be, so we can stopping fretting about the ills porn has wrought on society.

[HS: Actually, I'm going to agree with Satoshi Kanazawa who says that humans didn't evolve to deal with porn because it's something that didn't exist before the invention of photography. Your subsconscious brain may not realize that porn is not a valid substituted for a real live woman.]

"when the most they showed was a little bush"

For Christ's sakes, don't get me started.

@destructure

"Sig was asking if kids seeing porn actually harms them. That's a little different than being a porn addict. I just googled "porn addiction" and saw that it can mess up dopamine levels."

Have you ever considered that kids can be porn addicts too? Or perhaps just like food addiction and porn addiction, these habits are formulated during teenage years and will carry into adulthood due to changes in the brain structure and reward systems?

"The average kid sees his first pornographic image at age 11, and according to researchers at the University of New Hampshire, about 90 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 16 have looked at porn. In fact, the largest group of Internet pornography consumers consists of teens between the ages of 12 and 17."

"Even non-sex addicts will show brain reactions on PET scans while viewing pornography similar to cocaine addicts looking at images of people doing cocaine," Dr. Mary Anne Layden told senators. "This material is potent, addictive and permanently implanted in the brain."

http://www.dallasobserver.com/2010-02-18/news/too-much-of-a-bad-thing-internet-lures-kids-into-porn-addiction/

I follow (secretly) my son's twitter feed. Its allowed me to see what's on his mind if he's not in the mood to tell me.

A few years ago, I discovered that he was looking at porn on our computer at home. I didn't yell at him, I didn't talk down to him. I just explained that if he continued to do this, it would change the way that he looked at girls, and that it can be compulsive (I don't like the term 'addiction' when it isn't a drug). He seemed to accept this.

I haven't found evidence (in my router's traffic log and computer histories) of traffic to porn sites, so I hope that my talk worked.

Any parent who does not prevent his child from spending significant (ie. more than minutes a day) time using modern social media, should be imprisoned for child abuse.

It's like letting your child eat lead paint, or play football w/out a helmet, or cross the street wearing a blindfold.

"Actually, I'm going to agree with Satoshi Kanazawa who says that humans didn't evolve to deal with porn because it's something that didn't exist before the invention of photography. Your subsconscious brain may not realize that porn is not a valid substituted for a real live woman"

Just because something wasn't in the "ancestral environment" doesn't mean that modern humans aren't able to deal with it. If that was the case, we'd still be living in huts and hunting game with bows and spears. Civilization has presented all sorts of evolutionarily novel situations that, while influencing the course of evolution, have left humans quite functional their wake. The industrial era has presented all manner of change that people have had to adapt to, and most have quite fine.

In the vein of the orchid hypothesis (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/the-science-of-success/7761/ ), most humans are "weeds" and will survive and function well in very wide range of environments. This includes the modern environment replete with telephones (which gives us voices without faces), artificial light (which turns night into day), or the internet.

People who claim that porn is harmful have, as far as I have seen, little by way of concrete evidence that it causes any harm. Data on brain activity in reaction to porn are reminiscent of studies of brain activity/emotionality after playing video games. Video games, especially violent ones, were criticized as harming people, such as making them more violent. Proponents of this pointed to evidence showing that people were more agitated and more aggressive immediately after playing the games, but this failed to show that this had an impact on long-term behavior or *in different contexts (a key point)*.

I suspect that that is the key failing with porn research: people underestimate the human brain's ability to contextualize its experiences.

Seriously, show me one straight man who truly prefers porn (i.e., masturbation, as a commenter on Mangan's correctly pointed out) to real sex. I will add that it's easy to mix up the problem of boredom with having sex with *one* particular woman with lack of a desire for real sex with *any* woman.

Note that I will give that there probably are a few men that have issues with porn, but I suspect that those are a tiny minority and likely have a host of other personality problems (e.g., a general vulnerability to addiction).

We can suppose all we want (and that's fine) but without hard evidence on this topic we really don't have much to go on.

"I'm sure that's what Ben Goldsmith thought as well..."

Ha!

"Seriously, show me one straight man who truly prefers porn (i.e., masturbation, as a commenter on Mangan's correctly pointed out) to real sex." - JayMan


It's not a preference but porn can lead to complacency. Going a while without a "release" incentivezes men to do what it takes to actually meet women. Some have speculated that men are driven to achievement and success because biologically they need to get a mate. With young men being the biggest risk takers of all in that regard. Porn may be disrupting nature.

The issue raised by this blog post is both extremely important and extremely difficult (which is why most people prefer to avoid discussing it altogether rather than get a headache).

This subject is of course the impact of technology on mankind. Porn is technology, i.e. something that was not natively present in nature and has been carved/assembled by man.

The mainstream opinion is more or less that technology is neutral, and that nothing really bad can ever come out of technology. "It all depends on what it's used for", says the wisdom of crowds. When you raise the subject of thermonuclear warheads (which could level the entire terrestrial globe in less than 2 hrs) or Internet porn, these crowds become to think a bit more, but just a tiny bit.

I won't dwell on the neutrality part, since even an imbecile can, with some effort, understand that technology cannot be neutral by essence... its very coming disrupts the status quo and has sometimes life-threatening effects on those who have not access to it (the Ethiopian Negroes easily defeated by Mussolini's artillery, for example).

What is of interest to me is the positivist aspect: is new technology always a good thing? I define "good" as having a lasting positive impact on the human species happiness and survival probabilities. Under this definition of "good", some technologies undeniably qualify as net negatives. With the two most extreme examples:

- Atomic weaponry. Decreases the probabilities of a war between major powers occurring, but increases by a superior factor the destructive power of such a war.

- Virtual simulation. I define it as everything artificially interacting with the human senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch) and gaming the biochemical reward system; this includes porn and video games. For now, virtual simulation is a nascent and underdeveloped field, thus unable to cause major disruptions in societies (as JayMan said, "Seriously, show me one straight man who truly prefers porn [...] to real sex."). But, steadily and progressively, step by step, virtual simulation is evolving (just compare Skyrim to Oblivion). After democratized 3D display (2013) will come photo-realistic graphics, smell emission and advanced haptic feedback (2015). At this point a small, mostly male segment of the human population will come to prefer the virtual world to the real world, and devote most of its time, energy and ambition to virtual simulation. A strongly negative impact on the economy and the fertility rate will be felt. A long time will pass, until full-blown, electrode-based neural simulators are invented (think about the ones in Fallout 3) around 2030 or 2040. Then this will really be the end for humans, unless drastic measures are taken by governments and force is used to lift fertility.

[HS: Medical photography saves lives, and contributes to us living longer. Photography, non-pornographic, improves our knowledge of the world, and makes the world a prettier place. Pornography is a side effect of a technology that has benefited mankind immensely. Possibly another bad side effect is that viewing so many non-pornographic photos of beautiful people has caused people dissatisfaction with the mates they are able to obtain.]

I think it is very plausible that pornography increases the risk of social isolation and makes teens less likely to enter relationships. A common counterargument is that pornography does not affect sexual behavior as individuals prefer real sex over pornography, but this argument is clearly invalid.

If having real sex gives me 10 units of happiness, watching porn gives me 2 units of happiness, not doing anything gives 0 units of happiness, and the cost of attaining real sex is x, then pornography will cause individuals with a high cost of attaining sex to stop pursuing sex.

As individuals with average IQs tend to have intercourse at a younger age and more frequently, the effect of pornography on fertility is likely dysgenic.

"As individuals with average IQs tend to have intercourse at a younger age and more frequently, the effect of pornography on fertility is likely dysgenic."

Smarter people tend to be better looking because more intelligent men have higher incomes. Of course, Sigma has noted intelligence is not a strong predictor of wealth, but wealth does tend to indicate someone has a *minimal* level of intelligence in the smart fraction threshold (110-125).

"I think it is very plausible that pornography increases the risk of social isolation and makes teens less likely to enter relationships."

This has already happened in Japan. I forget where I got the information from, but a large minority of Japanese men have admitted in surveys they have no interest in sex.

"If having real sex gives me 10 units of happiness, watching porn gives me 2 units of happiness, not doing anything gives 0 units of happiness, and the cost of attaining real sex is x, then pornography will cause individuals with a high cost of attaining sex to stop pursuing sex. [...] As individuals with average IQs tend to have intercourse at a younger age and more frequently, the effect of pornography on fertility is likely dysgenic."

Very well put. Thank you.

I would nevertheless correct and emphasize your echelons.

- There is a difference between having sex with a girl, and having sex with a girl you love or fantasize on. The first scenario is infinitely less happiness-inducing than the second one, and all the men I know prefer masturbation to sex with a prostitute for this reason. The men who attend prostitutes are typically weird, or low-class.

- Not all porn is created equal. Most of it, especially the stereotypical, "fake" one, is repelling. But there is high quality porn available out there for those who know where to find it, and clearly it can match a sexual relation in terms of happiness produced.

I'm not terribly interested in the "is porn harmful" discussion, because the answer is so obviously *yes, of course it is* that denying it is beyond foolish. All the talk about dopamine is worthwhile but not the whole story. Porn's damage consists in the false expectations about sex - what it is, what it's for, what women can reasonably be expected to do - that are formed in a young person's mind when he watches hours and hours of (often extremely) abnormal and degrading acts performed by other people.

Anecdotes along the lines of "well, I watched a ton of porn and I still got happily married" are misleading, and in fact they remind me of the studies showing that kids with two homosexual parents "do just as well" as regular kids. I have no trouble believing that they do on measurable outcomes like educational attainment, but the harm shows up in more intangible metrics like the subtle but lingering emotional dissatisfaction and sense of incompleteness that results when your views of sexuality are deformed.

Look at the things that college kids are doing today; look at what's considered *de rigeur* - stuff that our grandparents could not have imagined; look at the way that young women are expected not only to perform this stuff but also not to suffer any psychological repercussions from giving themselves to too many men or jumping into bed too early; look at all this stuff and tell me it's not in great part the legacy of porn. As I say, I'm not interested in the discussion because I think that anyone still denying the obvious is pretty much doing so out of immaturity or obstinacy.

***Just because something wasn't in the "ancestral environment" doesn't mean that modern humans aren't able to deal with it.***

I agree with this; in fact, as a Christian creationist, I actually see this as evidence for God's role in crafting Man. I think our adaptability makes more sense under a creationist hypothesis in which God created us to be able to adapt to a wide variety of situations.

***Any parent who does not prevent his child from spending significant (ie. more than minutes a day) time using modern social media, should be imprisoned for child abuse.

It's like letting your child eat lead paint, or play football w/out a helmet, or cross the street wearing a blindfold.***

Yes, I agree. I didn't read the NYT article, and my kids are not yet old enough to access the internet, but if they did, I would certainly implement controls to make sure they weren't looking at porn. I would be upfront about it, though: they would know what the deal was. I don't really consider that "spying", but some may beg to differ.

"Is there any scientific evidence about harm caused to kids if they view porn?"

Not that I've seen, not in terms of studies. But DCFS will take your children away if you allow them to view porn on their computers, and the judge in my courtroom will uphold the decision. All it takes is a kid testifying "I was so ashamed of myself," and a the kid's psychologist opinion it harmed him.

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