The incidence of pornography use among teenagers who are Christians should be zero, of course, rather than merely half of non-churchgoing teens (and increasing with age). However, it's obviously much harder to achieve that ideal today than it was a few decades ago. I have much sympathy for parents, Christian or otherwise, who are trying to prevent pornography from coming into their households. Even if they can do something to restrict their children's access to the internet at home, they can't monitor every second of their children's whereabouts or behaviour elsewhere, and they can't monitor what goes on in other households.
By the grace of God, I've never been interested in pornography, but if I had been all those years ago, I would have had a tough time getting any opportunity to indulge such an interest. There was no internet, pornography wasn't on television (I grew up in a small town with very little television of any kind, and even when I moved to a large city there was no pornography on television), and I wouldn't have been admitted to any theatres showing such content. If I had attempted to buy one of the few pornographic magazines on the newsstand, the clerk would almost certainly have refused to sell it to me, and might have called my parents to report it. Such restrictions on the ability to indulge sinful desires have largely disappeared.
As reported by Salmaan Farooqui in the Calgary Herald, July 6, 2016:
Kyler Rasmussen, a psychology graduate student, and Alex Bierman, a sociology professor, studied data from a five-year survey in the United States that looked at the average trajectory of an adolescent’s pornography consumption from ages 13 to 23, surveying 3,000 adolescents across the U.S. between 2003 and 2008. The results made a broad statement that, on average, adolescent churchgoers view half the amount of pornography as adolescents that never go to church.Go here for a slightly different version of the same article.
“There is a social control function to religiousness, that is, religiousness tends to tell us disapproving messages of porn usage. It tends to tell us that we should not use porn, essentially,” said Bierman. “When we attend religious services, we join a community of like-minded others who tend to reinforce this message.”
The study also found that even though adolescents who go to church view less pornography than those who don’t, their pornography consumption still increases as they grow older, on average.
At age 16, churchgoing adolescents averaged watching one porn video per year, whereas an adolescent who never goes to church averaged two videos per year. That number increased to two videos per year and four videos per year respectively at age 23. Women were also surveyed, and while they watched up to 75 per cent less pornography, their viewership increased with age slightly as well. Rasmussen said that while the scale of consumption was probably far off, since the original survey asked how many videos a respondent watched per year, a difficult number to accurately remember.
“There was probably under-reporting of the amount of porn use,” said Rasmussen, noting that only one person reported watching 300 videos a year, which he speculated was probably more common. Despite that, he believes the most important information is that pornography viewership did increase with age for adolescents.
In future studies, the two hope to explore variables such as certain groups’ reluctance to share their high pornography consumption, and determining whether people who actively participate at church, rather than just attend, have different amounts of pornography consumption.
Another important thing to glean from the study, Bierman said, is that attending church is one possible way to get adolescents to watch less pornography. According to him, while it’s impossible to say whether porn is good or bad as a whole, the content of pornography can tend to be unhealthy for adolescents and how they view sex and intimacy as they mature.
“Pornography sticks with uncommitted, very casual sorts of relationships, where particularly women are there specifically to please men,” said Rasmussen. “Young people look at that and get an idea of ‘this is what sex is like and about,’ and so that changes their view of women and what sex is, and usually isn’t considered to be a good thing.”
“We are not looking to prophetalize, and we aren’t trying to make people religious, we are trying to ask what is it that may guide adolescents from pornography,” added Bierman, who is religious, along with his colleague Rasmussen. “What I think is important here is to glean why religious attendance has these effects, and hopefully apply these lessons to a broader framework of individuals.”
Bierman said this research is a base for the future. There isn’t much understanding of how pornography affects teenagers and their sexual development, so for Bierman and Rasmussen, this is a starting point for future studies.