The growing use of online pornography and addiction is causing huge problems for individuals, families, and children as young as 10 and 11 years of age, according to a top sex psychotherapist, who is speaking tomorrow in the Family Centre, Castlebar.
Trish Murphy, chair of the Family Therapy Association, is delivering a course for counsellors, psychotherapists, and psychologists in Mayo to highlight and explore the issue.
She said the usage of internet porn has “exploded” in recent years and it is only now that the problems associated with that usage are surfacing.
“Children as young as 10 and 11 are accessing pornography on their computer at home,” she outlined. “They don’t tell their parents - they don’t tell anyone - so they are trying to deal with this themselves. It can be extremely difficult for them and give rise to complicated sexual responses.”
Recent figures released by the UK Council for Child and Internet Safety revealed 90 per cent of children in the UK have viewed porn online, mostly while doing homework, and the average age of a first time view is 11.
For couples, using online pornography can cause serious difficulties in a relationship, she added.
“While it isn’t a problem for all couples, for many it is. One person could be spending a lot of time online and for the other person in the relationship, it can feel as if they are having an affair, leading to them questioning their own attractiveness and feeling left out.”
Addiction is a very real risk also and can lead to depression and isolation.
“For many, there is a very addictive aspect to pornography,” continued Ms Murphy. “This addiction has all the same problems associated with other addictions. People use it to de-stress, to avoid their problems and people start to take risks, they might even go online at work.
“They can start to lose self-esteem, feeling like they have little control over their lives. Withdrawal from society can result and it can cause a lot of isolation and depression.”
Ms Murphy said she has worked with schools to highlight the issue and speak to young people about internet porn.
“I’m finding that they [students] felt they wanted more of a conversation on this. They want to talk. They are going to porn for information on sex but they really want more positive information on sex and relationships.”