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Parents, This Study Shows Kids as Young as 7 are Accessing Porn

By November 18, 2019 No Comments
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Key studies in the past decade have shown the average age of exposure to pornography dipping lower and lower as access to technology has become more accessible. Because of this, kids have been facing the realities of online porn at lower ages and in greater numbers.

Most recently, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) conducted a major investigation into the rates of young exposure to pornography—the largest study of its kind to date. The findings are troubling, even if they are not completely surprising, given our technology-obsessed society.

Related: Parents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Sites Will

This study reveals the need for more intentional conversations about childhood exposure to content that can have negative lasting impacts. For parents ready to start those conversations, we’ve got your back. Click below to enter our step-by-step conversation guide site.

Conversation Blueprint

Key findings of the study

Here are some of the BBFC’s investigation’s key data points that everyone should be aware of:

  • Children as young as seven are viewing online porn.
  • More than half of 11- to 13-year-olds have encountered porn.
  • Only 18% of those 11 to 13-year olds who have viewed porn sought it out intentionally. This means that 82% of them came across online porn unintentionally.
  • Parents are not aware of just how much access their children have—75% of parents claimed their children had not viewed porn, but 53% of the children of those parents told the researchers they had in fact viewed porn.
  • Young girls are similarly likely to watch porn as young boys—68% of the boys and 58% of the girls surveyed have watched porn.
  • 83% of parents want age-verification controls in place on online porn sites. 56% of 11 to 13-year-olds stated that they were in favor of being “locked out” of explicit websites.

Concerning numbers, right? In their report on the investigation, The Telegraph highlights more trends that emerged from the research, too.

The study shows that underaged girls tend to view porn to learn what to do during sexual encounters so that they can “meet the perceived [porn-inspired] expectations of boys.” These young girls also fearfully believe that boys consider “aggressive sexual behavior” to be “normal” because of porn.

And the worst part? They aren’t wrong.

The first exposure is often an accident

BBFC’s Chief Executive David Austin told The Telegraph that widespread exposure and access to porn brings the “danger of normalizing it for children.” One of the study participants, 18-year-old Calum from Manchester, told the researchers of his porn-induced assumptions: “I just thought as if [a real sexual experience] was like a porn video, and I was like ‘okay I can do what I want with this girl because whatever I do she is enjoying it.’”

Perceptions of consent take a serious hit when porn is involved, the study suggests. Children’s understanding of sex and consent is affected by porn to the point where they think it unnecessary to even discuss whether or not to have sex, or how to treat one another during a sexual encounter. Obviously this has real implications as these children grow into adults with toxic ideas of respect, consent, and safety.

Related: Bark: Introducing A New Way To Monitor Your Family’s Internet While Building Trust

It’s also important to know that first porn exposure incidents are often accidents. The vast majority (82%) of the 11 to 13-year-olds who have been exposed to porn viewed it accidentally. Same goes for even younger children. The study found that children accidentally faced with extreme content at too early an age to comprehend what they are seeing or know how to process it, find it “upsetting or disturbing.” Surveyed children under 10 reported feeling “grossed out” and “confused” during that first exposure.

Fighter/Lover Card Front And Back

Austin commented on the study results:

“It is worrying to see seven-year-olds have stumbled across aggressive, violent porn that really upset them and children speak of going down ‘rabbit holes’ where they are exposed to even more violent material.”

The most important response to this study

It matters how we respond to this study personally and as a society. Such young exposure to pornography leads unprepared children into the world of porn’s harmful effects. You can find reports, studies, and personal accounts of these harms here, here, and here.

The BBFC, David Austin, and the British Government are pursuing age verification controls for the mainstream porn sites, since these are the sites most commonly accessed by children, the study found.

Related: Parents, Would You Let Your Teen Use This Text-Only Smartphone?

What about us as individuals and as families?

The most important element in protecting young children from exposure to porn is parents having intentional conversations with their kids. Children need adults they know and trust to help prepare them for the virtually inevitable first exposure to explicit content.

And kids who have already experienced porn? They need help processing what they saw and how it made them feel, and how to move forward on a path of healthy sexuality. It’s never too late to talk about it and walk them through what’s waiting for them on the internet.

Related: What I Told My 10-Year-Old Son When He Confessed To Watching Porn

It’s challenging enough for children to open up about sexuality when they don’t even fully understand what it is. Add the deep feelings of shame that often accompany porn exposure, and children are even more likely to bottle it up and withdraw from seeking help.

Bark

Critical conversations parents need to have

As technology becomes easier to access at younger ages, it’s becoming more crucial for parents to initiate these conversations and be there for their kids. More than ever, children need their parents to guide the conversation about sexuality—and approach it without shame or judgment. We know that dialogue can be difficult, though.

Related: For Parents: How To Update “The Sex Talks” With Your Kids To Include Porn

Parents often have questions like: What is appropriate language with my 7-year-old? How do I discuss porn with my kids without embarrassing them? How do I let my child know I am a safe place to talk about what he or she has seen or experienced?

Great questions, we’re glad you asked them.

We have created a tool called the Conversation Blueprint to help navigate talking about porn with a variety of people, your kids included. Check it out and arm yourself with talking points. There are other online resources like this tip sheet as well.

Related: Parents: What’s Better Than Internet Filters? Actual Conversations About Porn

Open, ongoing, honest, and shame-free conversations about porn’s harms and the value in real love and healthy relationships are the most powerful tools we have against the porn industry’s toxic influence.

It is worth any fear and discomfort parents might feel when approaching conversation with their kids. If you’re a parent, we encourage you to do whatever it takes to be there for your kids with love, support, and healthy age-appropriate advice. Share this article, start your own conversations, and fight for the future of kids.

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