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The Facts

PORNOGRAPHY AND HARM TO CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Porn and the internet

  • Claims vary from 4-30% of the Internet being sex or porn related, depending on how Internet traffic is measured.[i]
  • Ranked relative to other sites, traffic to PornHub has a global ranking of 65; RedTube ranks at 165; YouPorn at 175.[ii]
  • PornHub had 78.9 billion video views through 2014, considerably surpassing 2013 at 63.2 billion views.[iii] 
  • A 2013/14 survey in the UK revealed that the porn site Pornhub was one of the “Top 5” internet sites for 11-16 year-old boys.[iv]
  • The Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls Report released in 2015 states “The growing ubiquity of mobile devices means those targeted or indirectly implicated are getting younger and younger — with children as young as 5 or 6 years of age now exposed to cyber bullying and online pornography — sometimes of the most extreme kind. In some contexts online culture represents the worst form of gang violence.” [v]

 Evidence of child exposure to pornography

  • A major study at the University of Sydney in 2012 showed that for men who were frequent users of pornography, 43% were first exposed to pornography between the ages of 11 and 13.[vi]
  • A large-scale survey in the US revealed that amongst young adults age 25-30, 25% had first viewed pornography before puberty.[vii]
  • The same survey revealed that half of 13-24 year-olds actively seek out online porn at least once a week.[vii]
  • In a 2010 survey of English 14-16 year-olds, nearly one-third claimed that their first exposure to pornography was at 10 years or younger.[viii]
  • A 2015 survey in the UK showed that 1 in 5 twelve to thirteen year-olds believed that watching porn is “normal behaviour”.[ix]
  • Unwanted exposure to pornography among minors is increasing, with the number of 10-12 year-olds accidentally seeing porn rising from 9% to 19% between 2000 and 2005, and from 28% to 35% for 13-15 year-olds. . In another study of 16-17 year-olds, a large number of both males (84%) and females (60%) had experienced unwanted exposure to pornography whilst online.[x]
  • The 2015 Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls Report indicates “The growing ubiquity of mobile devices means those targeted or indirectly implicated are getting younger and younger — with children as young as 5 or 6 years of age now exposed to cyber bullying and online pornography — sometimes of the most extreme kind. In some contexts online culture represents the worst form of gang violence.”[iv]

 

Evidence of harms from exposure

  • A study of the most popular porn scenes showed that 88% contained physical aggression, 94% of it directed toward women; in 95% of cases the victim was shown to respond either neutrally or with pleasure. [xi] 
  • There is a consensus among research in the field that pornography is now “routine among children and young people, with a range of notable and often troubling effects”.[xii]
  • The latest neuroscience research has demonstrated that pornography use has measurable negative impacts on the brain.[xiii] 
  • Research by numerous behavioural scientists shows that the consumption of pornography can lead to addiction, with similar neurological processes to those observed in substance addiction.[xiv]
  • Studies have shown a correlation between early exposure to pornography and early sexual activity.[xv]
  • Minors who have been exposed to pornography and sexualised media have less progressive gender attitudes.[xvi]
  • Minors who have been exposed to pornography are more likely to view women as sex objects.[xvii]
  • Minors who view pornography and other sexualised media are more accepting of sexual violence, and more likely to believe “rape myths” (that women enjoy being raped).[xviii]
  • Adolescents who are exposed to pornography are more likely to engage in sexual violence.[xix]
  • Pornography is used by adult sexual abusers to undermine children’s resistance to exploitation.[xx]
  • A correlation has been shown between a child being exposed to pornography and their likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence.[xxi] 
  • An increased use of Internet pornography decreases boys’ academic performance 6 months later. [xxii]

 

What do young people say?

Based on a representative sample of 500 18 year olds:[xxiii] 

  • Eight out of 10 say it is too easy for young people to accidentally see pornography online.
  • Seven out of 10 say ‘accessing pornography was seen as typical’ while they were at school; the consensus view is that this is typical between the ages of 13 and 15.
  • 70% say ‘pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex’ and that ‘pornography can have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships’.
  • Two-thirds of young women (66 %) and almost half of young men (49%) agree that ‘it would be easier growing up if pornography was less easy to access for young people’.
  • Almost eight out of 10 young women (77%) say ‘pornography has led to pressure on girls or young women to look a certain way’.
  • Almost as many young women (75%) say ‘pornography has led to pressure on girls and young women to act a certain way’.

 

See also Current List of Brain Studies on Porn Users and other Journal Articles

[i] Quora; How much of all internet traffic is pornography?; Sep 23, 2014. 

[ii] Alexa; Sourced 24 Jan, 2016; Data accurate as of 21 Jan, 2016; PornHub; RedTube; YouPorn

[iv]  NSPCC: Porn Addiction Concerns; The Wave; March 31 2015

[v] Cyber Violence against women and girls: A world-wide wake-up call; A report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development working group on Broadband and Gender; 2015.

[viii] Online pornography: House of Commons Debate; Psychologies; July 2010.

[ix] Online porn: evidence of its impact on young people; Childwise/NSPCC survey; 6 April, 2015.

[x] Bryant, C. (2009). Adolescence, pornography and harm. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 368. 

Mitchell, K. J., J. Wolak, and D. Finkelhor. (2007). Trends in youth reports of sexual solicitations, harassment and unwanted exposure to pornography on the internet. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(2): 116-126.

[xi] Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Chyng, S., and Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women 16, 10: 1065–1085.

[xii] Flood, M. (2009). The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people, Child Abuse Review Vo. 18:384-400

[xiii] Kuhn, S., Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain Structure and Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption, JAMA Psychiatry; 71(7): 827-834 

[xiv] Hilton, D.L. (2013). Pornography addiction - a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of Neuroplasticity; Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology 2013, 3: 20767

Love, T; Laier, C; Brand, M; Hatch, L; Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update; Behavioral Sciences, 5(3):388-433

Phillips, B; Hajela, R; Hilton, D.L. (2015). Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics; Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 22:2, 167-192.

[xv] Carroll, J.S; Padilla-Walker, L.M; Nelson, L.J; Olsen, C.D; McNamara Barry, C; Madsen, S.D. (2008). Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults; Journal of Adolescent Research; 23(1), 6-30; Sage Publications

Wingood, G.M; DiClemente, R.J; Harrington, K; Davies, S; Hook III, E.W; Kim Oh, M. (2001). Exposure to X-rated movies and adolescents’ sexual and contraceptive-related attitudes and behaviors. Pediatrics 107: 1116–1110. 

[xvii] Peter, J. & Valkenburg, P. (2007). Adolescents’ exposure to a sexualized media environment and their notions of women as sex objects. Sex Roles, 56, 381–395.

Wright; P.J; Tokunaga, R.S. (2015). Activating the Centerfold Syndrome: Recency of Exposure, Sexual Explicitness, Past Exposure to Objectifying Media; Communication Research; Vol. 42(6) 864–897

[xviii] Owens, E.W; Behun, R.J; Manning, J.C; Reid, R.C. (2012). The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research; Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 19:99–122

Ybarra, M.L; Mitchell, K.J; Hamburger, M; Diener-West, M; Leaf, P.J. (2011). X-Rated Material and Perpetration of Sexually Aggressive Behavior Among Children and Adolescents: Is There a Link? Aggressive Behavior; Volume 37: 1–18

[xix] Bonino S, Ciairano S, Rabaglietti E, Cattelino E. (2006). Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents. European Journal of Developmental Psychology 3: 265–288. DOI: 10.1080/17405620600562359.

[xx] Russell D, Purcell N. (2005). Exposure to pornography as a cause of child sexual victimization. In Handbook of Children, Culture, and Violence, Dowd N, Singer D, Wilson R (eds). Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA; 59–84.

[xxi] Bonino S, Ciairano S, Rabaglietti E, Cattelino E. (2006). Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents. European Journal of Developmental Psychology 3: 265–288. DOI: 10.1080/17405620600562359.

[xxii] Beyens, I; Vandenbosch, L; Eggermont, S. (2015). Early Adolescent Boys’ Exposure to Internet Pornography: Relationships to Pubertal Timing, Sensation Seeking, and Academic Performance; Journal of Early Adolescence, Vol. 35(8) 1045–1068

[xxiii] Parker, I. (2014). Young people, sex and relationships: The new norms. IPPR.

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