Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Power of Media

From Obscenity--How It Affects Us, How We Can Deal With It
by Victor B. Cline—how+affects+us,+we+can

Nutritionists tell us we are what we eat. Similarly, the quality and character of our spirit is a reflection of what we feast upon—including the books and magazines we read and the motion pictures, television shows, plays, and other public entertainments we witness. Unfortunately, much of what is available is not conducive to building healthy spirituality. . . .

The media have a great potential to teach, inspire, inform, and entertain, but they may also corrupt, degrade, and pervert. They have the power to influence profoundly for good or evil all aspects of our values and feelings, as well as our behavior. We are affected by what we choose to expose ourselves to. . . .
The media do have incredible power to influence us and shape the nature of our civilization—for good or evil. Our hearts and minds—and those of our children—are vulnerable.
The media can make a real contribution to our society. But what we need—from the moviemaker, the television producer, the novelist, poet, playwright, and advertiser—is a new vision of man and woman, a new set of heroes. We need to see heroes who can cope, who can solve problems—not by violence, but by peaceful means. We need to see models of people sacrificing for a greater good, overcoming temptations, disciplining their emotional and psychological resources.
If our civilization is to survive, our arts and media will have to convey more positive values—reflecting the greatness of man and woman, their potential for good, and their capacity to love and express concern for others.

Teenagers and Pornography Addiction

Teenagers and Pornography Addiction:

Treating the Silent Epidemic 

By John Mark Haney
Adolescent curiosity about sexuality is a normal and healthy aspect of human development. For many generations of American youth, sexual exploration included such actions as sneaking peaks at pictures of naked indigenous peoples in National Geographic or perusing the underwear ads in the Sears catalog.
Today, however, the scene is very different. The Internet and cable television have ushered in an age of unprecedented access to hard-core pornographic images, and teenagers are jumping in head first for the ride. Once young people had to work to find pornography (often from the trash or a friend's father), but today children with rudimentary computer skills can find thousands of x-rated images with a couple of clicks of their computer mouse, and many youth are subsequently being inundated with sexual stimuli before they have the developmental capacity to integrate the material into their healthy sexual identity formation (Benedek & Brown, 1999).
Much of the issue with teenagers reflects the broader social reality that pornography has gone mainstream. What once evoked images of sordid shops where dirty old men in trench coats gathered is now routinely consumed by individuals of all races and socioeconomic strata in the privacy of their own homes, and the big players in the pornography distribution market are no longer mob-controlled fringe entities but Fortune 500 companies like AOL Time-Warner, AT&T, and General Motors, who have all distributed mass quantities of pornographic material through their cable and satellite subsidiaries over the years. At the same time, programming aimed at teenagers, such as MTV, routinely shows young people engaged in sexually charged situations and casually discussing once-taboo topics such as masturbation and “hooking up.” What's more, the Internet and cable television promise the curious teenager the added benefits of anonymity, secrecy, and a sense of safety (Schneider & Weiss, 2001). For a teenager who is unsure of his or, yes, her sexual identity, pornography can be like a trip to the ultimate candy shop, where they can revel in the new euphoric feelings while anonymously connecting with others who share their sexual tastes.
Indeed, the amount of pornography available to young and old alike has roared into everyday life so overwhelmingly that it has challenged the ability of social science to create models of treatment and outcomes to keep up with the pace of change (Fisher & Barak, 2001). What is certain, however, is that for many young people, pornography is not a casual interest, but an addictive force that is leading to a quiet epidemic of young people who cannot control their online or television habits. And because of their accessibility, the Internet and cable porn channels have become the super fix for a new breed of addicts who literally sacrifice health and happiness to indulge in the magic images they quietly worship.

Effects of Pornography on Teenagers

The exact effects of pornography on young people is a hotly debated topic, as few empirical studies exist which definitively examine the issue. Reasons for this dearth in clinical research include the reluctance of many teens to talk about their sexual habits and the monumental ethical dilemmas of setting up research studies involving youth and exposure to pornography. Nevertheless, numerous studies have pointed to the potential for serious harm.
Benedek and Brown (1999) noted several negative effects of pornography on young people. These included modeling and imitation of inappropriate behaviors; unhealthy interference with normal sexual development; emotional side effects (including nightmares and residual feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and confusion); stimulation of premature sexual activity; and the development of misleading and potentially harmful attitudes toward sex. Other risks have been suggested ranging from aggressive patterns of acting out sexually, the depersonalization of women (and now men and children), and an increased risk of poor social bonds as adults (Stack, Wasserman, & Kern, 2004) to the very real possibility of developing a pornography addiction, a relatively new but pervasive phenomenon which has been confirmed by research (Griffiths, 2001).
Pornography can create a powerful biochemical “rush” in the user. When a teenager is subjected to an arousing image, the adrenal gland secretes epinephrine into the bloodstream, where it proceeds to the brain and locks the image in. Once this has occurred, the simple thought of the image can trigger a feeling of arousal. I have encountered many adult clients who can still vividly recall the first pornographic image to which they were exposed as a child or teenager. Other body chemicals, such as serotonin, adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine also are at play, creating a euphoric state in the user. Teens who experience this biochemical thrill will, not surprisingly, want to experience it again. From this standpoint, it is sometimes helpful for practitioners to see pornography not as just a social issue, but as a drug, because the addictive mechanism is clearly part of the danger when teenagers habitually use pornography.

Multicultural, Gender, Religious, and Socioeconomic Considerations

Some critical cultural, religious, and socioeconomic factors with pornography and youth warrant mention. Some cultures have much broader parameters surrounding what is considered appropriate with sexuality, while cultural norms within other groups make the topic almost unmentionable. Therefore, practitioners must attempt to educate themselves about cultural mores. Also, it must be added that while the majority of youth who develop problems with pornography are males, a growing number of teenage girls are discovering their own dependence upon pornography (and in some cases online chat rooms), or are turning to it as a model for their own sexual development and activities. According to Carnes, Delmonico, and Griffin (2001), of the population that has developed severe problems with sex on the Internet, 40% are female.
Similarly, approaches to spirituality and religion can have a profound impact on a teenager's sexual development, and not always in the way that a parent intends. For example, some youth who come from rigid and legalistic religious backgrounds that wrap sexuality in shame and guilt try to forcefully repress their desires, which causes them to unconsciously bond with the same profane elements they are trying to ignore. When they act on these repressed desires, the resulting shame and self-loathing just perpetuate the cycle.
Also, while teenagers who grow up in homes with multiple computers and a high degree of computer literacy have more opportunities to engage in online behavior, some of the young people who are most vulnerable to pornography are those who come from low socioeconomic and more challenged backgrounds. According to Benedek and Brown (1999), teenagers who grow up in single-parent homes (especially when the television is used as a babysitter) are particularly at risk, as are youth with emotional and mental challenges, and teenagers who have been prior victims of physical or sexual abuse.

Therapeutic Considerations

While treatment plans vary strongly by circumstance, there are some important considerations to remember for professionals who are working with teenagers on this sensitive issue.

Reduce Shame

Needless to say, for many youth who are struggling with pornography, shame is a major factor. When you first meet the client, it is not unusual for him or her to avoid eye contact and be hesitant to answer questions. The practitioner should attempt to minimize shame by being supportive and nonjudgmental about the struggle.

Normalize the Issue

Many teenagers who are developing compulsive pornography problems do so in agonized isolation, often believing that they are perverts and alone in their actions. It can be helpful for the professional to educate them on the prevalence of the issue while still clearly communicating the dangers so they don't trade their isolation for an “oh well, since everyone is doing it…” idea, for that is common too.

Respect Cultural Norms

As previously mentioned, culture can strongly influence the manner and degree to which a teenager is willing to discuss his or her sexuality. A girl who comes from a Southeast Asian immigrant family may approach the topic very differently than a male from Central America. It is crucial that the counselor be sensitive to these differences and recognize that sexual patterns and gender expectations can be some of the strongest cultural norms within a given group, and they cannot be treated lightly or exclusively from a purely Western European orientation. Similarly, in many cases, because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, a female client might be more comfortable with a female counselor and a male client might prefer to work with a male counselor.
With all clients, it is helpful to gain an understanding of their sexual parameters and to help them define their boundaries if they are unsure where to draw them. A helpful tool for this is the circle plan (Carnes, Delmonico, & Griffin, 2001), in which three concentric circles are drawn representing healthy sexual behaviors (outer circle), boundary or uncertain behaviors (middle circle), and bottom-line or off-limits behavior (center circle) and helping the teenagers define where they stand. Aiding the clients in the creation of these boundaries in a safe environment will help equip them to not have to make snap decisions about where to draw the line in sexually charged, real-life situations.

Be Aware of Your Own Value Set

One of the fundamental mistakes practitioners make when dealing with youth and pornography is to willingly or inadvertently reveal, or even attempt to impose, their own religious or moral values. Professionals must never make assumptions about values of their clients (or their families) nor try to impose personal religious or moral viewpoints, even if they feel it is in the best interest of the client. Also, it is very important to closely monitor any self-disclosure about your own sexual experiences.

Never Underestimate the Power of the Addiction

With pornography, professionals sometimes fail to understand the power of the compulsion youth are facing, and it is not uncommon for school, religious, or private-sector professionals to advocate a simple treatment plan that is based upon willpower or moral character. Since pornography can be an addiction, these “just say no” types of approaches are likely to only create more frustration and self-defeating ideation in teenagers who do not have the willpower to stop. For such young people who can no longer control their actions, the intervention and treatment modality must recognize the problem as a full addiction and treat it with the same consideration given to alcohol or chemical substances.


Because we live in such a sexually charged culture, there is no way to totally isolate teens from exposure to inappropriate or harmful sexual content. Several of my clients had parents who sent them to private religious schools in an to attempt to insulate them from issues like pornography, and they became addicted nonetheless, some from images smuggled into the school on cell phones. Indeed, since the goal of totally shielding teenagers from sexuality is unrealistic (and probably unhealthy), counselors can play a key role in helping teenagers make good decisions and set boundaries as they grow into the sex roles of healthy adult men and women.
Counseling professionals can also help educate parents on the range of software products available to help young people. Because teens are often more computer savvy than their parents and can find ways around filtering software, parents may wish to investigate monitoring software programs like SpectorSoft, which actually takes screen shots of sites accessed, so a parent will be seeing what his or her son or daughter is really viewing, and not just the URL addresses. Other basic recommendations include putting computers only in common areas (not bedrooms) and blocking access to adult television programming and cellular phone downloads (Greenfield, 1999; Tapscott, 1998; Thornburgh & Lin, 2004).


Clearly, further research is needed in this area, and while it may be unethical to deliberately expose teenagers to pornography to study its effects, it might be feasible to conduct more longitudinal studies of the outcomes of youth who were known to be exposed to pornography or compile more extensive qualitative case-study research. Finally, given the breadth of this social issue, it is crucial that mental health professionals take a key role in advocating for the safety and welfare of young people. As new information develops, practitioners who work with youth must champion sensible public policy and open discussion of the problem.


Benedek, E., & Brown, C. (1999). No Excuses: Televised Pornography Harms Children. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 7(4), 236–240.
Carnes, P., Delmonico, D., & Griffin, E. (2001). In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behaviors. Center City, MN: Hazleton.
Fisher, W., & Barak, A. (2001). Internet Pornography: A Social Psychological Perspective on Internet Sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 38(4), 312–323.
Greenfield, D. (1999). Virtual Addiction: Help for Metheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Griffiths, M. (2001). Sex on the Internet: Observations and Implications for Internet Sex Addiction. The Journal of Sex Research, 38(4), 333–342.
Schneider, J., & Weiss, R. (2001). Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession? Center City, MN: Hazleton.
Stack, S., Wasserman, I., & Kern, R. (2004). Adult Social Bonds and the Use of Internet Pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85(1), 75–88.
Tapscott, D. (1998). The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw Hill.
Thornburgh, D., & Lin, H. (2004). Youth, pornography, and the Internet.Issues in Science and Technology, 20(2), 43–48.
Haney, John Mark. Teenagers and Pornography Addiction: Treating the Silent Epidemic. Counseling Outfitters [On-line], Article 10. Available:
Reprinted with permission from ACA for educational purposes only.

An Orphan Boy Teaches Doctors about Prayer

Teachings of George Albert Smith

Prayer allows us to talk to our Heavenly Father as though He were present.

It is a wonderful blessing that we enjoy in these times of stress and uncertainty to feel sure of divine guidance, to have absolute faith in a personal God who is interested in us and who hears and answers our prayers.
A number of years ago … I heard of [a] nine-year-old boy, an orphan, who was hurried off to the hospital, where examination indicated that he had to be operated upon without delay. He had been living with friends who had given him a home. His father and mother, (when they were alive) had taught him to pray; thus, when he came to the hospital, the thing he wanted was to have the Lord help him.
The doctors had decided to hold a consultation. When he was wheeled into the operating room, he looked around and saw the nurses and the doctors who had consulted on his case. He knew that it was serious, and he said to one of them, as they were preparing to give him the anesthetic: “Doctor, before you begin to operate, won’t you please pray for me?”
The doctor, with seeming embarrassment, offered his excuses and said, “I can’t pray for you.” Then the boy asked the other doctors, with the same result.
Finally, something very remarkable happened; this little fellow said, “If you can’t pray for me, will you please wait while I pray for myself?”
They removed the sheet, and he knelt on the operating table, bowed his head and said, “Heavenly Father, I am only an orphan boy. I am awful sick. Won’t you please make me well? Bless these men who are going to operate that they will do it right. If you will make me well, I will try to grow up to be a good man. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for making me well.”
When he got through praying, he lay down. The doctors’ and the nurses’ eyes were filled with tears. Then he said, “I am ready.”
The operation was performed. The little fellow was taken back to his room, and in a few days they took him from the hospital, well on the way to complete recovery.
Some days after that, a man who had heard of the incident went to the office of one of the surgeons and said, “Tell me about the operation you performed a few days ago—the operation on a little boy.”
The surgeon said, “I have operated on several little boys.”
The man added, “This little boy wanted someone to pray for him.”
The doctor said very seriously, “There was such a case, but I don’t know but that it is too sacred a thing for me to talk about.”
The man said, “Doctor, if you will tell me, I will treat it with respect; I would like to hear it.”
Then the doctor told the story about as I have retold it here, and added: “I have operated on hundreds of people, men and women who thought they had faith to be healed; but never until I stood over that little boy have I felt the presence of God as I felt it then. That boy opened the windows of heaven and talked to his Heavenly Father as one would talk to another face to face. I want to say to you that I am a better man for having had this experience of standing and hearing a little boy talk to his Father in heaven as if he were present.”
Let us so live that every night when we kneel to pray and every morning when we bow before the Lord in thanksgiving, there will be in us the power to open the heavens so that God will hear and answer our prayers that we will know that we are approved of Him.