Editor’s note: This is part of a special four-part series of Baptist Press stories about Internet porn addiction.

Long before the surgeon general issued his 1964 report showing the devastating harm of smoking, much of the nation viewed cigarettes as fun and harmless, even cool.

A new report says much of America today has a similar naive attitude toward Internet pornography and that it needs to wake up and see porn’s destructive impact not only on individuals but also marriages, children and society in general — before it’s too late.

The 53-page report, called simply, “The Social Costs of Pornography,” was released by The Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., and was signed by more than 50 scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds: conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, atheists and Christians.

Gone are the days, the report notes, when porn was the sole domain of shady nightclubs, dark alleys and adult theaters. Today, porn is easily accessible and affordable, and — with most Americans having a computer — its users can remain largely anonymous.

“[A]lthough pornography has existed for millennia, never has it been as widely available or used as it has been in recent years,” the report says. “… There is evidence that more people — children, adolescents, and adults — are consuming pornography — sporadically, inadvertently, or chronically — than ever before.”

Internet porn, the scholars say, can be psychologically addictive and can even reach levels of what psychologists call a “compulsive” addiction — meaning that it continues “despite negative consequences” to a person.

Similar to what is required of cigarettes, the report says all porn — print and digital — “should carry a warning” about porn’s addictive potential and possible psychological harm.

How wide is the problem? The report cites one 2008 study of undergraduate and graduate students ages 18-26 that showed 69 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women viewed pornography more than once a month. But it’s not just adults. In 2009, the fourth-most searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under was “porn,” according to data by For all kids — those up to age 18 — sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.

Hollywood makes 400 films a year to the porn industry’s 11,000.

Click here to continue reading.

SOURCE: Baptist Press

Michael Foust is an assistant editor at Baptist Press. The Social Costs of Pornography is available at ($5, not including shipping.)