Young children exposed to online pornography

Children as young as nine are being exposed to online pornography.

Last month, the Children’s Commissioner published a worrying report about young people and pornography. The report doesn’t make for easy reading, but it highlights the urgent need to protect children from the harms of online pornography.

online pornography

Following a survey of 1000 young people and focus groups, it was found the average age children first see pornography is 13. But by age 9, 10% had seen pornographic content and 27% had seen it by age 11. Even more worryingly, a high number have been exposed to extreme or violent pornography before the age of 18.

In recent years, digital technology has boomed and become a key part of our lives. Last year, 91% of 11-year-olds owned a smartphone! However, there’s a direct link between the rise of online pornography and the accessibility of technology. Internet users are just one click away from reaching pornographic content. Parents are often unaware this type of content can be accessed so easily, and may be reluctant to discuss it with their children.

Children often stumble across pornography accidentally.

Many young people actively seek out pornography through search engines or directly through adult websites. However, exposure can happen unwittingly too.

Content gets shared or shown between friends, and children can feel pressurised into watching adult content. They might receive explicit content through messages on social media, communication apps and online game chats.

Surprisingly, the majority of young people saw pornographic content through Twitter. Twitter doesn’t ban explicit content and the minimum age for an account is just 13. Other social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok all have an explicit ban on pornographic content. But livestreaming is available on these channels which is particularly hard to regulate.

As parents/carers, there’s lots we can do at home to avoid accidental exposure. Putting parental controls in place on your home Wi-Fi and the devices your children use are a key step. Check out the resources for parents and carers from the UK Safer Internet Centre for some great information.

The harmful impacts of pornography exposure.

Early exposure causes a range of problems, such as creating unrealistic expectations around sex, relationships and body image. This leads to lower self-esteem where people can’t identify with the body types they’re seeing. It also increases assumptions that partners enjoy or expect aggressive sexual behaviours.

The more a child is exposed to pornography, the more desensitised they can become to it. They might seek more extreme or violent content (the possession of which is a criminal offence). This is defined in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 as ‘grossly offensive or obscene, including acts which threaten a person’s life or risk serious injury, necrophilia and non-consensual penetration’.

Addressing online pornography in school.

With Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) being mandatory in all schools, pornography is a key topic that can be included.

First of all, it’s important to explain that you’ll be covering a sensitive subject. Reassure your students that their thoughts and opinions will be respected, but they don’t have to talk about anything they don’t feel comfortable with. It’s important not to judge and remain open to any discussions that take place. Focus on offering support and letting them know where they can go for further information. Here are some useful links we’ve found that can help!

Our mission to keep children safe.

We want to protect children from seeing inappropriate and harmful content online. We provide the best school filtering, security and digital safeguarding systems in the industry through a range of our partners. This gives you the choice of safeguarding systems with flexibility and complete control over every aspect of your school’s internet.

Our school filtering and monitoring services from Netsweeper and Smoothwall protects your students accessing harmful content while they’re on your network (even if they’re at home!). It complies with the KCSIE guidelines, as well as Prevent Duty and Internet Watch.

We also offer proactive monitoring powered by Netsweeper and Senso to add another layer of safeguarding for your pupils. You can monitor online behaviour on your network, and receive alerts when a student becomes a high risk of harm.

If you’re looking for a new school broadband provider or top notch digital safeguarding for your students, then we can help! Just get in touch with us – we’ll talk to you about the best solutions that could work for your school.

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