It’s no secret that our generation is the first to be dealing with the ability to access the most hardcore porn imaginable on a device that fits into our pockets with the click of a button. Pornography is available 24/7, 365 by any man, woman, or child of any age with access to the internet. So what is this doing to our society?

recent study conducted by the NSPCC ChildLine found that a tenth of 12 to 13-year-olds fear they may be addicted to pornography. That’s right, a whopping 10% of kids who just started 7th grade are saying they are already watching porn to the point where they are concerned and don’t feel like they can stop. Why is this happening, and why at such an early age? It’s all about accessibility and desensitization.

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of ChildLine, reports the following: “Young people are turning to the internet to learn about sex and relationships. We know they are frequently stumbling across porn, often unintentionally, and they are telling us very clearly that this is having a damaging and upsetting effect on them.”

(Related: Why 12-Year-Old Girls Are Having Sex Rougher, Earlier)

One boy told ChildLine he didn’t think pornography was affecting him until he realized he might not get married if he kept thinking about girls differently. One girl reported being assaulted at age 12 by her boyfriend, who was addicted to pornography.

Online exposure to pornography is becoming more and more common. Will Gardiner, CEO of Childnet and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said, “It can be difficult for parents to face the fact that their child might come across pornography, but the reality is that pornography is relatively easy to find online, and children are being exposed at a younger and younger age.”

Desensitization is another reason children this young are potentially becoming addicted. ChildLine found that 1-out-of-5 12 to 13-year-olds think watching porn is normal behavior and a part of everyday life. But guess what? Porn is not normalno matter what Buzzfeed is telling us.

Related: Mark’s Story – I Was Addicted To Porn At Age 12

It’s happening, and it’s happening fast. The rate at which porn is seeping into every crevice of the internet will only continue to increaseSo how do we fight something that is so virally available? A big part is getting rid of the stigma. Rantzen says talking about sex, love, consent, and relationships can help steer children away from researching online. Improved education will help foster healthy relationships and show porn is anything but normal.

By being educated and raising awareness on the harmful effects of pornography, we can make a change in society that protects our health, our relationships, and our world as a whole. Science and research have spoken: porn is harmful. Instead of building a culture where kids who haven’t hit puberty yet are addicted to watching sex online, let’s build one that promotes realistic sexuality and real love.

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What YOU Can Do

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