In all of my research and study of coming generations, one question looms large: What is the availability of pornography through the internet doing to the coming generation? After all, this is the first generation that has had such access to pornography in the history of the world.
The standard reply: “We don’t know.”
And that was, until now, an honest answer.
Generation Z is the first generation to grow up surrounded by the now ubiquitous nature of porn. No other generation has had pornography so available, in such degrees, at such a young age. Seventy percent of all 18 - 34-year-olds are regular viewers. The average age to begin viewing? Eleven. And that age is continually skewing downward. It’s been called the “wallpaper of their lives.” In 2014, one porn site alone had more than 15.35 billion visits. No, that is not a typo. That’s billion with a “b.” To put that into perspective, at the end of 2015, the entire population of the world was just over 7 billion.
So in terms of the effect of pornography, do we know anything at all? We’re starting to. For example, we now know that it is causing a rise in promiscuity.
Research has clearly established that teens who watch movies or listen to music that glamorize drinking, drug use or violence tend to engage in those behaviors themselves. A 2012 study showed that movies also influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors. A study published in Psychological Science found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.
In terms of pornography, boys who were exposed to sexually explicit media were three times more likely to engage in oral sex and intercourse two years after exposure than non-exposed boys. Young girls exposed to sexual content in the media were twice as likely to engage in oral sex and one-and-a-half times more likely to have intercourse. Research also has shown that teens who listened to music with degrading sexual references were more likely to have sex than those who had less exposure.
Beyond sexual activity, similar research has found early viewing of pornography among children leading to higher-risk sexual activity, sex addictions and sexual violence.
And this is why we have been holding our breath, wondering whether exposure to pornography through the internet, at such early ages, will lead to not only promiscuity and the objectification of women, but also to increased sexual violence.
Chloe Combi, a former school teacher and consultant on youth issues for the Mayor of London, interviewed hundreds from Generation Z. Her blunt conclusion: “They’re almost certainly imitating what they see in pornography.”
And now we have the evidence.
It has just been revealed through a study in England and Wales that the number of child sex offenses committed by other children has almost doubled over the last four years.
So what is porn doing to kids?
We’re starting to know.
James Emery White
Holly Finn, “Online Pornography’s Effects, and a New Way to Fight Them,” The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2013, read online.
Niamh Horan, “Porn Now the Wallpaper of Our Lives,” Independent, October 18, 2015, read online.
Carolyn C. Ross, M.D., M.P.H., “Overexposed and Under-Prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content,” Psychology Today, August 13, 2012, read online.
Nisha Lilia Diu, “Look Out, Generation Z Is about to Enter Your Workplace,” The Telegraph, July 19, 2015, read online.
Rozina Sabur, “Number of Alleged Child Sex Offences Committed by Other Children Almost Doubles,” The Telegraph, February 3, 2017, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.