According to the ‘The sexualisation of young people review’ a government report published in 2010, it is not a case of if a younger person will be introduced to pornography, but when. Other reports have indicated that the average UK teen spends one hundred minutes a week surfing the internet for porn. The report notes that online porn is becoming increasingly dominated by themes of misogynistic control and violence. Another report by the Parent Channel TV has discovered that 57% of young people aged 9-19 have already seen internet pornographic images. With nearly all children now having access to the internet, finding porn online is becoming much easier. Young people are curious by nature, but they might also feel under pressure by their peers to look at porn too. Most worryingly young people could be learning about sexual education through porn. It is essential for young people to learn that porn is addictive and unrepresentative. Porn leads to unrealistic and exaggerated expectations regarding sex, body image and relationships.
Research has shown that people who grow up with porn have more difficulty forming successful relationships. Foster children can be particularly vulnerable. If a child has come from a background of neglect or abuse they will already have difficulties developing healthy relationships. Pornography can only exacerbate these issues. There are concerns that excessive consumption of porn will desensitise young people to violence and rape.
One study has also found that an alarming number of teenage girls felt they should imitate pornographic scenes they had seen online. Additionally, a growing number of girls felt pressured into stripping on webcams for their boyfriends or even strangers. These images can then be circulated online. This is a form of sexual abuse and can have terrible consequences for the young people involved. Foster children can be particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation because many have social anxieties and want to be accepted by their peers.
Try not to automatically assume that your child has been seeking out porn if you notice sexual content in their internet search history. They might have been looking for information regarding sex education or could have clicked on a link from another site. Most young people use the internet for sex education today, so if you decide to put parental controls on computers, do your research and try talking to them beforehand. Find one which blocks porn sites but still permits access to sexual education. But the most important facet of developing a healthy attitude towards pornography and sex are open conversations. Although young people can be embarrassed, do not assume they do not want to talk about it. It is important to discuss the impact of porn and the negative effects it can have. Teach them the difference between realistic sex and sensationalised sex. Stress that porn cannot teach them about emotional relationships.
Some teenagers are posting sexual videos and images of themselves online. Most will be unaware that they could be breaking the law. It is an offence to post sexual images of anyone under the age of 18, even if it is of themselves. If you suspect a young person in your care has become addicted to porn see your GP and get help. It could affect their concentration and studies, as well as their views on sex and relationships. But again, try to avoid stigmatising. As with a lot of issues involving young people, the most important thing is to not overreact and to be calm and considerate.