The Cyberporn Generation
One of them was 13-year-old Ryan Cleary, who admits to looking at Internet porn occasionally as a kind of research tool, so he'll know more about what he's supposed to do with girlfriends. "Guys will ask if I've gone to first base yet, so I got to figure things out. If you don't know, they laugh at you," he says. "Some guys look at porn out of curiosity and to figure out what they want to do with girls in the future."
Like all teens, Ryan's classmate Stephanie Struniewski, also 13, is blasted with beauty images everywhere from magazines to MTV. Yet she blames her ex-boyfriend's interest in Internet porn for playing havoc with her self-image. "He told me he wanted me to look skinny like the porn girls," she says. "He told me I was fat, that I was a hippo."
Meet the cyberporn generation. According to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 70 percent of the nation's 15-to 17-year-olds have looked at Internet pornography, much of it graphically hardcore. The notion of adolescents peeping at risque images is hardly novel, of course. And the Web, with its 24-hour anonymity and infinite variety – an estimated 1 million erotic Web sites, with chat rooms, video feeds and cascading porn pop-ups – superseded that tattered Playboy stashed under little Biff's mattress years ago.
But now the first generation of kids who have never known a world without Internet porn is coming of age at a time when the culture at large is grappling with shifting standards of what constitutes decent exposure. "In the past, we had boundaries," says psychologist Mary Ann Layden, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Cognitive Therapy. "Now Paris Hilton, Pam and Tommy Lee make videos of themselves having sex. So the message is that it's normal to watch people having sex."