Teens with ADHD

“Is My ADHD Teen Addicted to Porn?”

Is porn addiction more common in teens with ADHD? Impulsivity and a strong dopamine drive may lead adolescents with ADHD to view pornography. Here, learn how to talk to your teen about porn and how to identify warning signs of trouble.

Q: “My son, 13, has been diagnosed with ADHD. Lately, I think he’s been looking at pornography on the Internet. He is addicted to video games, so I am fearful he will develop a porn addiction as well. How should I handle it?”


Pornography is much more prevalent and accessible than it used to be. It’s easy for kids to find porn online — or accidentally stumble across it thanks to a poorly worded Google search.

That said, pornography is not cause for panic, regardless of how your child found it.

How to Talk to Your ADHD Teen About Porn

1. Consider Your Options – and Approach

Since you’re unsure whether your teen is viewing porn, you can address this issue in several ways. You could take steps to confirm your suspicions by, for example, checking his browser history. Just be aware that doing so may feel like an invasion of privacy to your teen if you haven’t already established that part of your job as a parent is to periodically monitor his Internet use.

If you decide to look into his browser history, be ready for what you might find. If you’re upset about what you discover while you talk to him, it will undermine the effectiveness of your conversation.

[Get This Free Download: An “Ethics Manual” for Your Teen’s Electronics]

You could also address his exposure to porn as a general thought by saying something like, “You’re getting older now, so we should probably have a conversation about pornography. I know it’s all over the Internet, and I want to get ahead of it.” This option allows you to have the conversation while maintaining more dignity for your child.

Punishing him by taking away his computer or phone would be a mistake. That sends the message that curiosity and interest in sex is bad, and, potentially, that sexual feelings are wrong. Instead, it is better to talk patiently and calmly with your son about what occurred.

2. Keep the Conversation Brief and Direct

Bringing up porn won’t be comfortable for you or your teen. But it should be brought up. Just keep things direct and brief. A protracted conversation may close the door for future questions, which will do more harm than good. Your son may look for answers in less reliable places.

3. Remember That Interest in Sex Is Appropriate

Interest in sex is developmentally appropriate for teenagers. Looking at porn doesn’t mean your son is going to grow up to become a deviant; it just means he’s curious.

[Read: How to Talk About Sex with Your Teen]

Views on porn vary widely, with some people thinking it’s no big deal, while others are strongly opposed to it on moral grounds, ranging from religious views to concerns about the exploitation of women. Regardless of how you answer the “is porn bad?” question, making your child feel guilty about his natural curiosity will likely do more harm than good, in terms of your relationship with him, and with regard to his self-image. But do talk to him about your values and how looking at porn relates to them.

4. Factor in ADHD

ADHD is almost certainly playing a role in this. The ADHD brain produces less dopamine than does a neurotypical brain, and it uses the dopamine less efficiently. As a result, it craves sources that increase levels of the neurotransmitter. And porn is an excellent source. This could be a reason why he seeks out pornography now and may be a reason for him to seek it out again in the future. Don’t take it as disrespect if he does.

It is also important to recognize the role that pandemic social isolation may be playing here. Your son may be turning to the Internet for a lot of things right now. This may just be another on the list. During this boring time with minimal connection, the stimulation pornography provides can be very attractive. If you catch him looking at porn again, chalk it up to impulsivity and boredom. Then revisit your previous conversation regarding curiosity, porn use, and your values.

5. Be Sure He Knows Porn Isn’t Sex

When talking to your son, distinguish porn from sex. In the same way that an action scene in a movie isn’t a real fight, porn isn’t real sex. It’s acting. It’s fantasy. It should not set expectations of actual sex and intimacy. This is not how real sex works. It’s important that your son understands this, so that he has reasonable expectations for what sexual relationships are like in real life.

Sex education in schools in the United States is sorely lacking, and this may be an excellent chance to help guide your son toward becoming a healthy adult.

Porn Addiction: Signs That Your Teen May Have a Problem

  • You notice changes in mood or behavior.
  • There’s been a significant increase in the amount of time they spend online.
  • They suddenly need much more privacy.
  • They are isolating themselves.
  • You’ve spoken with them about their use of porn, but they have continued anyway despite attempts to stop.
  • Their sexual knowledge or behavior is not developmentally appropriate.
  • They engage in risky behaviors — viewing porn on school computers, say.

Porn Addiction Help: What to Do

If your teen exhibits these behaviors, it’s important to find an experienced and compassionate mental health professional who is skilled in this area. The professional should also screen your child for other mental health challenges, since ADHD and mood disorders are often associated with porn addiction.

Porn Addiction: Next Steps


SUPPORT ADDITUDE
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

Leave a Reply