Just in time for Valentine’s Day we thought we would tackle the tricky topic of Pornography! We all like to protect our children from some of the explicit content now available via the internet but statistics are proving that this is not always possible. It is natural and normal for children to be curious about sex; and the highly connected digital world in which they live is the obvious place for them to satisfy this curiosity. But the digital world can sometimes shock and surprise and children can come across pornographic material accidentally without intentionally looking. Latest statistics reveal that 65% of 15-16 year olds and 28% of 11-12 year olds have seen online pornography; children were as likely to see pornography for the first time via ‘pop-ups’, as to search for it deliberately or be shown it by other people. On first viewing young people reported a mixture of emotions; 41% were curious, 27% were shocked and 24% were confused, one of the most worrying statistics is that just over half of the boys who had viewed pornography (53%) thought it was ‘realistic’.So it would seem that young people do know about pornography; in fact, they may even be more exposed to explicit content than adults!
It’s important that when they view pornography, whether accidentally or intentionally, young people understand exactly what’s going on! Schools talk about the ‘mechanics’ of sex in Science, but sex is a complicated business. Pornography blurs the lines about consent, violence, mutual pleasure, what real sex is all about; usually emotions, 2 people connecting and intimacy are missing. So this means that young people who consume porn often expect their partners to act out what they have seen, even if it’s painful, degrading or dangerous; sex in porn is not real life. Young people need to know that Pornography shows actors who are being paid to perform an exaggerated version of sex; they often agree to do things that most people wouldn’t do when they were having sex with a partner.
There is lots of advice out there for parents who are worried about their child and online Pornography; www.thinkuknow.co.ukbut sometimes it can be difficult to monitor what exactly your child has been viewing. If you check out the internet history would you be suspicious of red tube or twitter? Red Tube is a free porn site; which because of the name no one would suspect and what about Twitter? Some recent analysis by Channel 4 news concluded that 1 in every 1000 tweets is pornographic – meaning there are more pictures of porn than of pets, people or products and just consider that Twitter averages over 500 million tweets per day.
So, what needs to happen to protect our children? The industry itself and government need to take responsibility; there is a new Digital Economy Bill coming out shortly which creates an age-verification regulator which will publish guidelines about how pornographic websites, which operate on a commercial basis, should ensure their users are aged 18 or older. This excludes Twitter! But pornography is worth about £1 billion (it’s difficult to find accurate figures) just in the UK and around £20 billion worldwide; the revenue it generates would leave a big hole in any Countries economy, if they decided to tackle it head on and operate a blanket ban!
Parents need to be open and honest about sex with their children and offer them a safe space to be able to talk about what they’ve seen on the internet. Plus, children and young people need good Sex and Relationships Education in schools; that doesn’t just do the reproductive aspects of sex but talks honestly about pornography and ‘real’ sex, its messy, it’s fun but with the right person at the right time, wonderful!
UKCCIS ‘The Impact of Online Pornography on Children and Young People’ Middlesex University London; June 2017
www.gov.uk Digital Economy Act 2017