While statistics have shown for the last several years that the average age of first exposure to porn is about 9 to 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 while 10-14 year-olds make up 36% of minor consumers. 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—unsurprisingly—proves to be a less than effective 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,” said Bitdefender’s Senior e-Threat Analyst Bogdan Botezatu. “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 the UK government’s evolving 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.”

Why This Matters

While these findings are 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 study is a statistically accurate reflection of the growing issue of kids accessing porn, we know that the age of first exposure is getting younger and younger with the increased availability of smart devices. We often receive messages from parents telling us how their children as young as 4 and 6 years old are accessing pornography, and that kids as young as 12 years old are showing signs of compulsive porn consumption that is already affecting their young lives.

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

Awareness and education make a world of difference in this fight for healthy relationships and real love. Our purpose as an organization 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 compulsion or addiction.

We’ve always believed that if people truly understood the harms of pornography, they would choose not to support it. We support non-censorship 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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