Pornography and Sexualised Content

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Type of Resource

Guidance

Publication Date

June 28, 2023

Topic/s

Harmful or inappropriate content  / Pornography
Most younger children will not actively search for explicit content. However, they may still be exposed to online pornography or sexualised content in several ways, including:

Access to Pornography and Sexualised Content

As young people mature, it is natural for them to be curious about sex. Make sure children in your care know who they can talk to about sex and relationships if they have any questions. That might be you, or another trusted adult.

At age 11-13, more than half of young people have seen pornography and this increases to 66% at 14-15 years old.

The majority of young people’s first-time viewing pornography was accidental and/or unintentional.

These statistics suggest that between the ages of 11-15, many young people may need to understand how to process potentially harmful sexual material. Porn and other sexualised content can negatively impact young people’s brain development and physical wellbeing.

Where can young people access pornography?

Porn and sexualised content can be found by using a search engine. In some cases, innocent phrases or misspellings can signpost to sites that contain adult content.

Pornography can also be searched for on popular social media platforms, including Snapchat and Twitter. Some accounts on these platforms offer ‘premium services’, which involves users sending money in exchange for sexualised content.

Young people can also access pornography and sexualised content on:

Mainstream pornographic ‘tube’ sites – such as Pornhub and Xtube.
Social Media sites – such as Reddit, Twitter, and Snapchat.
Subscription-based services – OnlyFans and Just for Fans.
Peer-to-Peer sharing services – BitTorrent and uTorrent.
Erotic Fiction Sites – such as Literotica and Adult Fan Fiction.
Search engines – Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

The impact of pornography on young people

Porn does not accurately represent real sexual relationships. It is estimated that it takes over 8hrs to film a short scene. In most forms, commercial pornography is an exaggerated and ‘high performance’ staged depiction of sex featuring adult actors.

Access to online pornography can distort young people’s views and expectations regarding body image, sexual activity and the importance of consent and respect for others. This can also apply to adults if they are overexposed to porn and sexualised content.

This may not be clear to young people when they engage with pornography, and they might mistakenly believe that the ‘intense performance’ and idealised bodies are normal. They may also see harmful and damaging sexual practices that are not based on healthy and safe sexual relationships that respect consenting adults and their wishes.

The consumption of pornography can:

Understanding Porn Habits

You may have heard a lot about porn addiction in the media. Despite not being an accepted medical term, ‘porn addiction’ really refers to compulsive habits of viewing or accessing pornography.

It is important to recognise that masturbation in private is typical of young people’s healthy sexual development as they move into their teenage years. At this point, it is natural for young people to explore their bodies and sexuality. Some young people may use pornography to project fantasises about themselves and others onto real life people.

These habits can be formed in simple terms because the activity causes a rush of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. Young people may watch pornography because they are curious, bored, lonely, anxious, sad, or aroused.

In some cases, they may use pornography to cope with difficult feelings like anxiety, sadness, or other mental health issues.

In any case, moderation and healthy habits are key. If you have concerns about unhealthy sexual development or porn habits, or overexposure to pornography, you should speak to a medical professional.

For more information about healthy sexual development see further resources below.

Pornography and Abuse

Sometimes, abusers can use pornography in the grooming process. They may try to normalise its use by creating the impression that everyone watches it or to incite a young person’s curiosity in a particular act. Abusers may also use porn to exploit feelings of sexual immaturity to manipulate and coerce a victim into sexual behaviour.

Young people should be told that being asked or forced to watch pornography by an adult or other young person is wrong. Children in your care should always be encouraged to tell a trusted adult if anyone tries to show them pornography.

Pornography and the Law

Certain types of pornography and sexualised content are illegal. This includes extreme images showing violence, serious injury, and anything sexual involving a child (anyone under 18).

Mind your language

What you say matters. It is important to understand the difference between pornography and child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Some countries and the media still incorrectly use the phrase ‘child pornography’. Most parents and safeguarding professionals recognise this as an inaccurate and unhelpful description.

This is because:

Reporting – Online Child Abuse or Extreme Pornographic Images

If anyone accidentally stumbles across something they think is illegal, they can report the content anonymously online to have it removed.

NOTE: Never copy an indecent image of a child. If you come across one, capture the URL (the web address at the top of the page) but do not screen grab or capture the image. Report the social media page or website to the police or Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

Welcome to the Online Safety Hub

How old are you?

If you are under 18, click the blue button below to visit the Online Safety Hub micro-site for children and young people.