Today’s children, ‘digital natives’, have easy access to virtually unlimited amounts of hardcore online pornography.
By the UK Government’s own reckoning, 1.4 million children access pornography every month. Research commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) shows that children and teenagers are watching and stumbling across pornography from an early age – in some cases as young as seven or eight.
The majority of children’s first time watching pornography was accidental, with over 60% of children 11-13 who had seen pornography saying their viewing of pornography is unintentional. 1British Board of Film Classification, 26.09.2019 Children see pornography as young as seven, new report finds
Age verification measures will prevent the vast majority of children from accidentally finding hard core porn.
Porn harms kids
Although we know that pornography is inappropriate for children, many of us don’t understand the extent of its negative effects. Porn doesn’t just cause momentary confusion or embarrassment in kids; neither is it something that stops being too bad so long as kids know the difference between porn sex and real sex. 2“You don’t have to explain every facet of online pornography but you should make it clear what is fantasy, what is acted, and what generally happens in reality.” ZD Net X.Osbourne 18.04.2019 Why the UK’s porn block will backfire spectacularly
30 years of empirical research has shown that porn has a profound impact on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.3The Guardian, J.Doward, 24.03.19, Adults only: the battle to keep online pornography from Britain’s children These are some of the proven effects of porn use on children:
It shapes their attitudes towards sex
» seeing sex as primarily physical and casual, rather than affectionate and relational
» earlier reported ages for sexual intercourse, and increased likelihood of having casual intercourse with a friend, group sex, oral sex, anal sex and using drugs or alcohol during sex
» the normalisation of trends such as strangulation and ‘rough sex’.
It breeds harmful attitudes and behaviour towards women and girls
» less progressive gender role attitudes for both males and females; acceptance of the narrative of male dominance and female submission
» increased likelihood that adolescents (regardless of gender) regard women as sex objects, sexual playthings, eager to fulfil male sexual desires
» among boys, increased sexual harassment of female peers.
It impacts mental health and wellbeing
» stronger preoccupation with sex to the exclusion of other thoughts; high levels of distraction
» increased risk of loneliness, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem
» Increased levels of social maladjustment.
Why age verification is vital
In response to the UK Government’s 2015 announcement that it would introduce age checks for online porn sites, British developers poured millions of pounds into creating world-leading age verification software with privacy by design.
This is ready to go. And although it’s no solve-all silver bullet, since we know determined teenagers will find ways to get around it, it will prevent children from accidentally stumbling upon online porn, and being pulled in to watching it on a more regular basis.
This measure will go a long way in protecting children from the harmful effects of pornography. Not only will it help to prevent them from being exposed to unhealthy ideas about sex, it will also help to guard them from toxic stereotypes about women and girls which we know fuels peer-on-peer sexual harassment, coercion and assault in our schools and universities.