While statistics have shown for the last several years that the average age of first exposure to porn is 11 years old, the chilling results of a recent study have just been released that shows children are accessing hardcore porn sites earlier than ever.

According to research by security technology company Bitdefender, kids under the age of 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption among the under 18 age. Internal intelligence from Bitdefender’s parental control feature revealed that the under-10 age group is now accounting for one in 10 of the visitors to porn video sites. Even more unsettling, the sites most visited by children under 10 include porn mega sites which feature categories such as ‘extreme brutal gang bang’, ‘sleep assault’, ‘domestic discipline,’ and ‘crying in pain.’ 

Although most porn websites initially lead to a landing page that asks users to confirm they are 18 or older before entering the site, this proves to be a terrible deterrent, considering these sites have no actual way to verify the genuine age of who is clicking.

“The research shows that, unless they are carefully supervised by their parents, children start visiting porn websites from an early age,” Bitdefender’s Senior e-Threat Analyst Bogdan Botezatu told Mirror. “While porn sites only formally restrict minors, parents can easily take simple measures by installing security solutions with a parental control tool that can block access to unauthorized areas.”

The shocking stats come after the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) called for stricter regulation of porn sites, as part of UK government’s Digital Economy Bill. The children’s charity says porn sites that don’t comply with age verification checks should be prevented from operating in the UK.

Related: British Government Seeks to Verify Age of Porn Site Visitors

“A generation of children are in danger of being stripped of their childhoods at a young age by stumbling across extreme and violent porn online,” said Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC. “We simply want children to be protected from adult-only material online as they are in the off-line world.”

The NSPCC has consulted on proposals to the UK government that are currently in place, but the organization says it is “concerned” that penalties will be ignored by porn companies that break the rules. It argues that the government should carry the power to cut off income from porn sites that allow minors to access their explicit content. The charity also says any site that doesn’t follow the rules should be forcefully blocked by internet service providers.

“This is not about censorship – we don’t want to stop adults from viewing legal pornography,” said Wanless to the Mirror. “Tougher regulation will simply bring sites who don’t act responsibly into line with those who are already making age verification a priority. But we believe that if a company can’t operate within the law they should not be able to do business in the UK.”

Why This Matters

While these findings are surely unsettling, we will have to see if they are backed up by further research; only time and further analysis will tell. But regardless of whether this new study is a statistically accurate reflection the growing issue of kids accessing porn, we know that the age of first exposure is getting younger and younger. We receive messages from parents telling us how their children as young as 8 years old are accessing pornography, and that kids as young as 12 years old are showing signs of compulsive porn viewing that is already affecting their young lives.

Related: The Percentage of 12-Year-Olds Who Admit To Struggling With Porn Will Shock You

As stated above by the NSPPC, our purpose is not to restrict adults’ rights to view legal forms of pornography, it is to decrease the demand for porn by raising awareness on its harmful effects and also to protect children from falling victim to something that can easily lead to a lifelong addiction. We’ve always believed that if people truly understood the harms of pornography, they would choose not to support it. We support acts that recognize porn as a public health issue and help to promote programs to educate kids and teens on the issue. Hopefully saving generations of kids from their first exposure to pornography will also protect relationships and the society we live in as a whole.

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