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 36; Xhamster ranks 68 and YouPorn at 200.[ii]
- Throughout 2018, every minute on Pornhub they had 63,992 visitors watching 207,405 videos. There were 33.5 billion visits for the year, rapidly and consistently rising from 18.35 billion visits in 2014 and 23 billion visits in 2016.[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 cyberbullying 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
- 2017 Australian Research found that 69% of boys and 23% of girls have seen by age 13 or younger (a total of 37%).[vi]
This is consistent with an Irish study in 2019 which found that 65.5% of boys and 30% of boys have seen pornography by age 12 or younger.[vii]
- 84% of young men and 19% of young women aged 15-29 watched pornography on a weekly or daily basis, as per the above mentioned Australian Research.
In addition, a large-scale survey in the US revealed that half of 13-24 year-olds actively seek out online porn at least once a week.[vi][viii]
What young people say about their access to pornography?
- Based on a 2014 representative sample of 500 18-year-olds in the UK:[ix]
- Four-fifths of teenagers say that it's too easy for young people to accidentally see pornography online.
- 72% say ‘pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex’ and 70% agree 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’.
- 2016 UK research found that 53% of boys and 39% of girls who had seen online pornography said they thought it was realistic.[x]
- Initial feelings of viewing pornography tend to be adverse and potentially anxiety-provoking. These include negative responses of shock (27%), confusion (24%), disgust (23%) and nervousness (21%).[x]
- The vast majority of young people surveyed in New Zealand (2018) agree that porn shouldn't be accessible by kids. 71% indicated that it should be filtered, blocked or that some sort of age restriction should be implemented to limit access by people under 18. [xi]
- Young people's voices to this issue have been documented here.
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. [xii]
- There is a consensus among researchers in the field that pornography is now “routine among children and young people, with a range of notable and often troubling effects”.[xiii]
- Neuroscience research has demonstrated that pornography use has measurable negative impacts on the brain.[xiv]
- 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.[xv]
- Studies have shown a correlation between early exposure to pornography and early sexual activity.[xvi]
- Minors who have been exposed to pornography and sexualised media have less progressive gender attitudes.[xvii]
- Minors who have been exposed to pornography are more likely to view women as sex objects.[xviii]
- 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).[xix]
- Adolescents who are exposed to pornography are more likely to engage in sexual violence. In addition, a correlation has been shown between a child being exposed to pornography and their likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence.[xx]
- Pornography is used by adult sexual abusers to undermine children’s resistance to exploitation.[xxi]
- An increased use of Internet pornography decreases boys’ academic performance 6 months later. [xxii]
[i] Quora; How much of all internet traffic is pornography?; Sep 23, 2014.
[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.
[vi] Lim, M.S.C.; Agius, P.A.; Carrotte, E.R.; Vella, A.M.; Hellard, M.E.; (2017). Young Australians’ use of pornography and associations with sexual risk behaviours; Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health; 41(4): 438-443. DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12678
[vii] Dawson, K., Gabhainn, S. C., & MacNeela, P. (2019) Dissatisfaction with school sex education is not associated with using pornography for sexual information, Porn Studies, 6:2, 245-257, DOI: 10.1080/23268743.2018.1525307
[viii] The Porn Phenomenon and Why you Should Care; Barna Research; January 21, 2016.
[ix] Parker, I. (2014). Young people, sex and relationships: The new norms. IPPR.
[x] Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A, Adler, J. R., Davidson, J, Leyva, R. and Horvath, M. A. H. (2017). “I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it…” A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people. London: Middlesex University DOI:10.6084/m9.figshare.3382393
[xi] Office of Film and Literature Classification. (2018). NZ Youth and Porn: Research findings of a survey on how and why young New Zealanders view online pornography. Wellington, NZ: Office of Film and Literature Classification.
[xii] 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.
[xiii] Flood, M. (2009). The harms of pornography exposure among children and young people, Child Abuse Review Vo. 18:384-400
[xiv] Kuhn, S., Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain Structure and Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption, JAMA Psychiatry; 71(7): 827-834
[xv] 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.
[xvi] 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] Brown, J. & L’Engle, K. (2009). X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media. Communication Research, 36, 129-151.
[xviii] 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
[xix] 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
[xx] 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.
[xxi] 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.
[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
This page was updated September 2019.