A new study released by Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, reveals the extent of the exposure of online pornography to children.
Entitled ‘A lot of it is actually just abuse – Young people and pornography’ – the study draws together research from a survey of 1,000 young people and focus groups with teenagers aged 14 to 19.
The study’s key findings
- Pornography exposure is widespread and normalised – to the extent that ‘opting-out’ isn’t an option for many young people. The average age at which children first see pornography is 13. By age nine, 10% had seen pornography, 27% had seen it by age 11 and half of children who had seen pornography had seen it by age 13.
- Young people are frequently exposed to violent pornography, depicting coercive, degrading or pain-inducing sex acts; 79% had encountered violent pornography before the age of 18. Young people expressed concern about the implications of violent pornography on their understanding of the difference between sexual pleasure and harm. The report finds that frequent users of pornography are more likely to engage in physically aggressive sex acts.
- Pornography is not confined to dedicated adult sites, with Twitter being the online platform where most young people had seen it. Fellow mainstream social networking platforms Instagram and Snapchat rank closely after dedicated pornography sites.
In the study’s foreword, Dame de Souza said: “This report does not make for easy reading, but nor should it. I truly believe that we will look back in 20 years and be shocked by the content to which children were exposed.
“Throughout my career as school-leader I have witnessed the harmful impact of pornography on young people. I will never forget the girl who told me about her first kiss with her boyfriend, aged 12, who strangled her. He had seen it in pornography and thought it normal.
“Let me be absolutely clear: online pornography is not equivalent to a ‘top-shelf’ magazine. The adult content which parents may have accessed in their youth could be considered ‘quaint’ in comparison to today’s world of online pornography. Depictions of degradation, sexual coercion, aggression and exploitation are commonplace, and disproportionately targeted against teenage girls.”
‘A lot of it is actually just abuse – Young people and pornography’ can be downloaded in its entirety at www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Pornography-Survey-CCo-27.01-1.pdf