'Too easy' to see explicit images

Some 70% of 18-year-olds said that accessing porn was seen as typical for people in their year group at school, a poll showed

Some 70% of 18-year-olds said that accessing porn was seen as typical for people in their year group at school, a poll showed

First published in National News © by

Many teenagers say it is too easy for young people to accidentally see explicit images online, with the vast majority concerned that pornography can have a damaging impact on youngsters views of sex and relationships.

A new poll also suggests that accessing porn is seen as typical for young people, with some admitting that it had become common in their year group at school at age 11 or 12.

It also reveals that just under half of teenagers believe that sending sexual or naked images and videos is a part of everyday life for young people today.

The survey, published by the IPPR think-tank, asked 500 UK 18-year-olds for their views on pornography as well as sex and relationships education.

It found that 80% of those questioned think that it is too easy for young people to accidentally see pornographic images and videos online, while seven in 10 thought that pornography could have a damaging impact on youngsters' views of sex and relationships.

And 46% said that sending explicit images and videos was a part of normal life for teenagers.

Seven in 10 said that accessing porn was seen as typical for people in their year group at school, with one in 10 saying it was common at the age of 11 or 12, and 42% saying it became common between the ages of 13 and 15.

More than two-thirds (67%) of those questioned thought it was possible for pornography to become addictive.

The findings also suggest that teenagers believe boys are more interested in pornography than girls, with twice as many saying that young men look at it than young women (81% compared to 40%).

The poll also indicates that teenagers are aware of the impact pornography can have on views of women as well as sex and relationships.

Just over seven in 10 (72%) of 18-year-olds said it leads to "unrealistic attitudes" to sex, while two-thirds (66%) said porn has led to pressure on young women to act a certain way and 68% said it has put pressure on girls to look at certain way.

Slightly fewer said pornography had put pressure on young men to act and look a particular way (61% and 56% respectively).

About 70% said pornography encourages society to view women as sex objects.

The results also show a gender divide, with more young men agreeing that porn helps youngsters learn about sex than young women (45% compared with 29%).

And girls were twice as likely to strongly agree than porn leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex than boys.

The survey concluded that 66% of young people think that people are too casual about sex and relationships, with 66% of the women questioned and 49% of the men saying it would make growing up easier if access to porn was more difficult.

The vast majority of those questioned (86%) said that sex and relationship advice should be taught in schools, with more than a third (37%) suggesting lessons should be given from the start of primary school and 49% wanting classes from the beginning of secondary school.

Around 68% want sex and relationships education to be taught by a trained expert, 40% think lessons should be given by an external visitor and just a fifth (19%) saying it should be taught by a teacher at the school.

IPPR associate director Dalia Ben-Galim said: "This new polling data shows that pornographic images are pervasive in teenagers' lives and that young women in particular are acutely conscious of how damaging they can be.

"It paints a worrying picture about the way online pornography is shaping the attitudes and behaviour of young people. It is also clear that young people believe the sex education they currently get in school hasn't kept pace with the realities of their digital and social media lifestyles."

:: The Opinium online survey questioned 500 UK 18-year-olds between June 19 and 27.

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