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What’s the Average Age of a Child’s First Exposure to Porn?

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The truth is, it isn’t completely clear exactly how old most kids are when they’re first exposed to porn. But regardless of the average age, every child is different, and every child deserves to learn about sex, sexuality, and relationships from better sources than porn

Some sources say the age of first exposure is around 11 years old, while others say kids as young as eight are encountering porn. We’ve even had messages from Fighters saying they were as young as 3 years old, and their earliest possible memories are finding porn in their parents’ basement.

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. A nationally representative estimate of U.S. youths (ages 14 to 18) exposed to pornography: 84.4% of males and 57% of females.

Related: How Early Porn Exposure Traumatizes Boys And Fuels An Unhealthy Perception Of Masculinity

If you’re curious to see some anecdotal evidence for early porn exposure being the rule and not the exception, check out this tweet of ours and the hundreds of responses we got:

Conversation Blueprint

The responses range from, “6 years old. My older sisters found our mom’s boyfriend’s tape and played it,” to, “I tried to go on YouTube but ended up spelling it wrong by accident and launched a porn site. I was 8.

Clearly, these cases aren’t isolated. Another estimate says that 93% of young men under the age of 18 have seen porn, along with 62% of young women of the same age.

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, taken from the garbage, or swiped from an older sibling’s “secret” hiding place.

Related: 9 Serious Issues Porn Culture Fuels In High Schools

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.

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

And consider this. If 60% of 10 and 11-year-olds have smartphones, is it really all that surprising that, sometimes, they encounter porn online whether they’re looking for it or not?

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Early exposure and 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 and boys are being pressured into sexual acts by their peers and learning that sex is about fear, violence, and domination—not love, intimacy, and connection.

Related: Can Women Get Addicted To Watching Porn?

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, it’s not all bad news.

Fighting to educate those around us

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 entirely discouraged. 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.

Related: 20 Mind-Blowing Stats About The Porn Industry And Its Underage Consumers

Conversation Blueprint

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.

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. Running away from the issue won’t help to equip the next generation to think critically about porn and make educated decisions.

Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to step up and speak out about the harms of porn.

To explore our comprehensive step-by-step conversation guide that will help you navigate how to talk to your kids about porn, click here.
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