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Young people regularly exposed to depraved or violent internet pornography are at risk of becoming sexual deviants with incurable problems, a sex therapist and educator said yesterday.

Joanie Farley Gillispie said young people had easy access to a world of depraved sexuality on the internet at a time when their own sexual nature was being formed. "If they look repeatedly at deviant sex, these sex scripts become hardwired in their brain," she said.

Dr Gillispie yesterday addressed the World Congress for Sexual Health in Sydney, which was attended by more than 1000 sex researchers.

The author of cyber.rules, a guide to the internet for parents, educators and clinicians, Dr Gillispie, said the internet could also be a source of positive information about sex, and parents had to separate harmful from healthy exploration.

The secretary-general of the World Association for Sexual Health, Beverly Whipple, said in the keynote address that it was time to focus on the positive benefits of sexual expression on health.

Research studies showed sex with others, or masturbation, could improve longevity and immunity, and may be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, and breast and prostate cancers.

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