Teen Porn 101

If they're taking their laptops and cell phones to bed with them, it's probably not to do homework.

"That pulls particular interest for a child, because it is unusual and bizarre," McLaughlin says. "Kids who explore in that area begin to do so right around puberty, when kids will overhear or partake in conversations that for some kids are jokes but other kids take more seriously."

McLaughlin has even treated kids who have sexual encounters with animals.

"They're available, and they don't report or complain," he says. "Some kids, especially the ones without social skills, they might act out those sexual impulses on available targets, and that can be family pets, or in rare instances, we've had kids who have had sexual encounters with farm animals."

Illana Kohn
Illana Kohn

He adds, "Because of the nature of the Internet now, kids have that as a resource to find out whether what they're hearing is real, and they don't have to look very far to find out that it can be very real."

A top result of a Google search for "bestiality," next only to Wikipedia, is basically a YouTube of animal porn. Videos of men and women having sex with horses and dogs and just about everything else are instantly available.

"If we found a dad's Playboy when I was young, we'd look at it, but eventually we'd get bored and go play football," says Shawn Brooks, a founder of Oxbow Academy, the lockdown facility in Utah. "Now an adolescent can sit in front of a computer for 15 hours and never see the same thing twice."

Brooks, along with Steve Schultz, was in Houston in January to meet with family therapists and talk about treating kids who are addicted to porn. Teens who end up at Oxbow — the academy only accepts 13-to-17-year-old boys — are extreme cases. One boy, for example, was out to eat with his parents and was caught in a bathroom stall masturbating to porn on his cell phone.

Another Oxbow kid had continually broken through the restrictions and locks his mom put on the family computer to stop him from looking at pornography, and when his mother finally removed the computer, the boy broke into a neighbor's house.

One teen, in a recorded therapy session at Oxbow, said, "I think honestly what I deserve right now, for what I have done, is to be locked away for a long time."

"We get the kids who let [pornography] have a serious effect on their daily lives," Schultz says.

The teens at Oxbow — it's in Utah because the state doesn't have any anti-lockdown laws — have also, for the most part, been through their local school counselor/family therapist/church counselor systems with no results.

"I think there are a lot of therapists who have contact with it," Brooks says. "They just don't necessarily know how to treat it."
_____________________

Things in Houston are no different.

In 2004, about the same time McLaughlin saw a rapid increase in the number of patients with pornography addictions, a 14-year-old boy walked into a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting in Houston, marking the first time a teen had tried to join a meeting in the city. Carol Ann "R," a recovering sex addict herself, was there and says the group was stunned, unsure how to proceed.

"We're just a fellowship for people who have a desire to stop. Anyone is welcome; we trust people to tell the truth and don't think anyone would lie about being a sex addict," Carol Ann says of the group, which has its national headquarters in Houston. "But with teenagers, we have to be so careful because of age. We needed to develop a special message."

After about 30 minutes of debate, the group allowed the boy to stay at the meeting, but it would be the last time a teenager seeking help would be allowed do so, because the "legal responsibilities transcend 12-step traditions."

According to Carol Ann, Sex Addicts Anonymous has created program for teens wanting to join the organization. It has a rigorous and lengthy screening process for the teen and any adult who agrees to be the kid's sponsor.

A faster-growing portion is a group for the parents of such teens. One Houston mom joined Sex Addicts Anonymous after she discovered that her stepson had been using her credit card to buy pornography.

"I don't know how to access the degree of it, but it turned out it was going on for quite a while," she says. "It's definitely a problem, because it influenced him in a negative way and certainly the household. My husband and I want a completely porn-free house, and we're both going to the 12-step group, and we want to focus on recovery."

Getting her son to commit to therapy of any kind has been more difficult. The mom says that he has talked to "one or two people," but the therapy isn't "completely underway."

Several family therapists in Houston wouldn't talk to the Houston Press about how they treat teens with sexual or pornographic addictions. Cynthia Littlefield, the director of the Christian Counseling Center of Houston, declined an interview because of the sexual nature of some of the content in the Press.

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