The truth is, nobody knows exactly how old most kids are when they’re first exposed to porn. Some sources say it’s 11 years old, while others say kids as young as 8 are encountering porn. But no matter how young, these incidents aren’t isolated cases, and it’s not like early porn exposure only happens to a small slice of people—in fact, in the United States, it happens to almost everybody before they leave their teens. An estimated 90% of young men under the age of 18 have seen porn, along with 60% of young women of the same age.

RelatedPorn Fantasies For Virgins: What Internet Pornography Is Doing To Our Generation

It’s not exactly clear how these numbers compare to previous generations, but what is clear is that exposure to porn is happening earlier than it ever used to, and it’s more hardcore and accessible than it ever used to be. For previous generations, the story was almost always the same—a young boy or girl finds an adult magazine found on the side of the road or swiped from an older brother’s “secret” hiding place.

Finding Porn Is Easier Than Ever

The images in these types of magazines were far tamer than the content that’s available today with one simple click or misspelled search term, and there was another major difference too—hardcore or explicit content wasn’t available everywhere. It’s an obvious difference, but porn has quite simply become far easier to find in many more places than it ever used to be, which makes the likelihood of early exposure much higher.

RelatedKids Who Find Hardcore Porn Want To Repeat What They’ve Seen, Study Shows

And consider this. If 60% of ten and eleven year olds have smartphones, is it really all that surprising that, sometimes, they encounter porn online whether they’re looking for it or not?

Early Exposure Has Real Consequences

It’s not surprising that these numbers have skyrocketed, but that’s only half of the equation. Young people are being exposed to porn much earlier, but that porn is often much more extreme than it ever used to be. That can be worrying, because studies have shown that kids who have been exposed to hardcore images and videos can be more likely to want to repeat what they’ve seen without exactly understanding the meaning or the impact of what they’ve seen. That’s led to scenarios in which younger and younger girls are being pressured into sexual acts by their peers and learning that sex is about fear, violence, and domination—not love, intimacy, and connection.

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At the same time, limiting access to porn is much more difficult than it’s ever been. Even if the home computer and family mobile devices are safeguarded, there’s always a friend with a smartphone or unchecked internet access, and not even the most diligent parents can be 24/7 watchdogs. With the way things are right now, early exposure to porn is almost impossible to control completely. But, there is hope.

But There Is Hope

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Even if porn consumption is happening earlier than ever and at an all-time high rate, parents shouldn’t be without hope. We live in a time where there is less of a deafening silence around this issue, and anyone can get help who might need it. There are tons of resources for parental figures to navigate talking to their kids about sex and porn, and talking about it early. And like never before, there are also amazing resources for those who might be struggling with an obsession or compulsion to porn. Now, more than ever, there is hope.

RelatedParents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Will

With our better understanding of exactly how porn can harm and why it isn’t healthy to watch, we can better equip those around us to understand why they shouldn’t go looking for it, and even if they’ve already seen it, it’s not worth watching.

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What YOU Can Do

Education is power in this fight for healthy relationships. SHARE these porn basics to help others understand the increasing influence of porn on young people.

Change The Conversation

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