Parker Johnson knows.
He’s young, only 15, but is unfailingly polite and quick-witted. He’s self-aware enough to know that his Eagle Scout project, an informational campaign about the dangers of pornography to the adolescent mind, is likely to get him snickers and teasing.
But if the Fountain Valley High School sophomore is surprised by anything, he said, it’s that he’s not getting teased much at all.
Relying on interviews, research such as the Youth Internet Safety Survey by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and information from a group called Fight the New Drug, which sees the prevalence of porn as a public health crisis, Parker has curated all his research onto a website, sites.google.com/view/fightingthenewdrug, that encourages people to learn more.
As a highlight of his Eagle journey, Parker presented research findings at a community forum last week in a meeting room at the Fountain Valley Police Department, drawing an audience with the city’s police chief and mayor.
“It’s a drug that hurts in ways that you don’t see physically often because it’s not going to mess up like your liver or something ... like normal drugs do,” he said.
Parker has help with his project from young ladies who care just as much — his friend Kristi Edwards, 16, and his sister Ellen, 13.
Kristi shared a story about a classmate seeing the stickers on her binder that read “Fight for love” and “Porn kills love.” The boy seemed genuinely interested in knowing more. She shared her research about how viewing porn activates the dopamine receptors in the brain, triggering the same potentially habit-forming pleasure response that people get from food, drugs or alcohol.
Parker shared anonymous accounts he had collected from young men who said they first saw porn around elementary school age, then became addicted. They described having warped ideas about relationships and cultivating anxiety from secretly searching for porn. Parker assured his audience that these were real, regular people.
Parker knows a lot of Eagle Scouts will build things for the community — he originally wanted to build a sand volleyball court at his local park. But then he saw a social media post warning about porn’s dangers and wanted to have a conversation with an impact that could last.
His project includes a presentation at Fountain Valley High on May 23 by Fight the New Drug. He said the event is open to the public and is family-friendly for all but the youngest children.
Parker has the support of his parents as well as his little sister, and said he has the support of his troop leaders too.
“A lot of people have told me it’s a bold thing I’m doing,” he said.