Therapist Leslie Whiting emphasizes that parental priorities include establishing a loving, respectful, trusting, and open connection with their child which will eventually result in mutual friendship. When a parent models a behavior contrary to the principles of success and happiness, such as lying or being sneaky, they are creating a faulty connection, which, like a faulty electrical connection, can lead to disastrous results.
One of the most important principles of success and happiness that children need to be taught is the law of the harvest….We reap what we sow and there are consequences for our choices – good or bad. In an attempt to be a friend before being a parent we may inadvertently shield our children from the true effects of their bad choices. In doing so we think that we are demonstrating our love, and for a time, we may get away with it. But when we are not around and our child is struggling with a real-life situation resulting from a poor choice, how much value will our child find in our shielding of consequences when the stakes were small? Seeds planted in youth will eventually develop and be harvested.
The good news is it is never too late to teach correct principles. But it does require that parents assert themselves in loving, thoughtful, and courageous work that may not bring immediate results. As we persevere in nourishing the seeds of correct principles they will eventually bring forth the fruit of successful and happy children who will eventually love, like, respect, and value us.
When we asked Mr. Griffitts how parents should respond if their son or daughter is found to be engaging in sexting behavior, he shared these three strategies:
Once an image is sent and shared, it is nearly impossible to remove or eradicate from the internet completely. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has different recommendations for removing abusive images from the various social media platforms.
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Pornography may very well be a moral issue, but abstaining from porn isn't something we have to do purely as a matter of faith or religion. Clinical studies are showing that pornography is altering the brain chemistry of porn users in significant ways. As Mr. Oaks puts it, porn isn't really about nudity as much as it is about novelty. It's about how many tabs we can have open, how quickly we can reach orgasm, and how soon we can start the process over again. These behavior patterns are dumping massive amounts of dopamine into the brain chemistry system.
Dopamine is at the center of the brain's natural reward system. Everyone's brain produces dopamine when we do something that elicits a sense of pleasure. Eating good food, winning a game, laughing with friends, etc., are all examples of activities that induce a dopamine response in our brains. Pornography causes an excessive dump of dopamine that our brains have a difficult time regulating. Over time with prolonged exposure to pornography, our brain's dopamine neuroreceptors begin to shut down, which can have negative effects on our mental and emotional health. For example, with diminished neuroreceptor activity, we need more stimuli to receive the same amount of pleasure. Normal things that once gave us pleasure become much less appealing. Physical intimacy with one partner that was once meaningful becomes mundane and unexciting. Long term effects also include erectile dysfunction and loss of sexual appetite all together.
Mr. Oaks points out that healthy sexuality moves slowly. Healthy sexuality is the result of investing emotionally in another person over a period of time, engaging in a give and take relationship by carefully gauging another person's needs and responses. In his practice, the instant gratification offered by digital pornography is a major deterrent to healthy long-term relationships as a result of the pervasive dopamine induced arousal addiction experienced by many of his clients. Mr. Oaks recommends a regulated reduction of screen time and healthy face-to-face activities to break the addiction cycle.
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Dopamine is the body's natural pleasure drug, but as is the case with almost all drugs, the body (the brain) typically develops a tolerance to the dopamine that the body produces and subsequently to the behavior or stimulus that originally produced the dopamine. For example, let's say that the first thousand times you receive a like or a follow or a retweet your body produces a dopamine hit that gives you pleasure at level 10 (10 being an arbitrary number chosen just to make a point here). Then the next thousand likes, follows, or retweets, you only get a pleasure rating of 8.5.
At this point, the body's natural response is to do one of two things (or maybe both). First, we increase the behavior to compensate for the loss of pleasure. If I'm only getting a pleasure rating of 8.5 for a thousand interactions, then I need to increase my interactions to get back up to a pleasure rating of 10. Economists call this the "law of diminishing returns". Addiction recovery specialists call this "tolerance". Second, as the pleasure continues to decrease over time, we tend to look for new stimulus that is more intense and more exciting.
What this looks like in real life is obsession with our mobile screens. We may be in a group of our very best friends, but the dopamine hits from screen interactions are much easier to attain than with real life interactions. That's why we see groups of kids (and adults) standing in a circle with every face turned downward toward that little dopamine stimulation device in our hands.
When we develop this arousal addiction, we need new and different kinds of stimulus. We move from texting to video games, to porn, to YouTube, etc. We are constantly trying to maintain a level of artificially induced pleasure that ultimate leaves us isolated from humanity in some of the most meaningful ways. With the screen, we don't have to put our real selves out there. We don't have to risk face-to-face rejection. But we don't get to see a smile with a real twinkle in someone's eyes. We don't get to bump fists, high five, or hug.
Instead, we might tweet out to a thousand followers something really clever that we've crafted very carefully over the last thirty minutes, and feel really dejected that only five people liked my #bestversionofme. Why aren't more people responding to me? It's already been ten minutes!
P.S. Please like and share this post with everyone or my self-esteem is going to take as serious hit and I could become a porn addict.
Before they even know how to emotionally regulate themselves well (because at 14 we certainly don't know how to do this yet) they are finding themselves in this "always on" mode that starts a new social development. "Always on" means they have to regulate very very quickly with a lot of other stimulus and a lot of other people. While most parents regulate and teach their kids through these developmental phases, parents that aren't paying attention can find their kids lost in this overwhelming environment.
Negative side effects include a difficulty in self-regulation. If a 14 year old reaches out to seventy-five people and doesn't get any immediate responses, his feelings of isolation are exponentially increased. Mr. Oaks pointed out that as grown men, we are prone to feel profound rejection when our significant others don't respond to our needs quickly. A 14 year old is going to feel those same feelings even more intensely than an adult who has developed some emotional regulation skills.