Even as as adolescents get more free access to pornography online than ever before, researchers have found that attending religious services can keep the youth away from from the adult sites.
The study showed that pornography consumption` increases sharply with age, especially among males.
However, these age-based increases in pornography viewing are decidedly lesser among those who attend religious services, the researchers said.
"We were able determine that there is a barrier effect at play wherein religious social control encourages adolescents to view less pornography over time," said Kyler Rasmussen, lead author of the study and a PhD student at University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
"This increase in pornography consumption as adolescents get older isn't as drastic among those who attend religious services. We can see that religious attendance is a factor in shaping the trajectories of pornography viewing in adolescents," Rasmussen noted.
The findings are based on a telephone survey of 3,290 teenagers and their parents.
The study was published in the Journal of Adolescence.
So what is it about attending religious services that would help steer adolescents away from viewing pornography?
"People in religious communities learn that there are expected patterns of behaviour," study co-author Alex Bierman, Associate Professor at University of Calgary, noted.
"It may be the notion of a divine significant other who watches over them and there may also be a social support component,â€ť Bierman explained.
â€śWhen you become integrated within a moral community where pornography is used less often and is, in fact, discouraged, this may shape and deter pornography usage. There's a kind of social control function at play," he pointed out.