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Growing pains: Majority of UK teens think porn makes life harder to handle

Published time: August 20, 2014 13:35
Edited time: August 20, 2014 15:43
Reuters / Marko Djurica

Reuters / Marko Djurica

The majority of British teens believe internet porn is ‘addictive’ and has a ‘damaging effect’ on society, pressuring them to behave and acts in ways not experienced by previous generations, a new report has revealed.

The report produced by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) on Tuesday also says that nearly half of young Brits are ‘regularly exposed’ to explicit images before the age of 14, while the vast majority say it has become ‘part of everyday life’.

The study suggests that easier access to pornography had a negative effect on the sexual expectations of young people ; 77 percent of young women said that ‘pornography has led to pressure on girls and young women to look a certain way’, while 46 percent of young people said sending explicit images and videos of themselves via social media was ‘part of everyday life’.

Less than a quarter, meanwhile, disagreed with that assessment. Approximately 80 percent of 18 year olds said that pornography was too easy to access, while 60 percent said its pervasiveness had complicated the process of growing up.

However, over half said there was nothing intrinsically wrong with viewing pornography, while 4 in 10 said it helped people learn about sex. A quarter went so far as to say it helped them learn about relationships. 80 percent of respondents said they believe young men view pornography, with 40 percent saying the same about young women.

Many, quite ironically, said that poor sex education in school had also added to the pressure for them to become sexually active, saying there was a perception that teachers promoted sex under the age of consent as long as the teens were using contraception.

The report’s findings will add pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who has expressed concerns about children accessing X-rated material online.

As a result, Cameron encouraged internet service providers (ISPs) to make family-friendly filters a default setting for web users, where customers would have to ‘optout’ of using the filter if they wanted to access adult content.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo)

In a speech last year, Cameron warned that easy access to porn was “corroding childhood” and that ISPs had a “moral duty” to protect young people online.

The filters are said to block nearly 20 percent of websites online, according to activist organization Open Rights Group (ORG), who have raised concerns that the policy is encouraging web censorship and curtailing internet freedom.

“This new polling data shows that pornographic images are pervasive in teenagers' lives and that young women in particular are acutely conscious of how damaging they can be,” said Dalia Ben-Galim, associate director of the IPPR.

"The images and the type of pornography that young people can access quite readily is much more explicit and more violent than young people have been able to access in the past."

Reuters / Ognen Teofilovski

This is not the first report warning about the consequences of easy-access pornography online.

Last year, a report produced by the commissioner for England’s office found that children who watch pornography are more likely to develop sexually risky behavior and become sexually active at a younger age.

It also called for the Department of Education to invest more time into teaching sex education, especially concerning the realities of realistic physical intimacy.

“It is a risky experiment to allow a generation of young people to be raised on a diet of pornography," said Commissioner Maggie Atkinson.

Britain is one of the biggest world markets for the pornography industry, with analytics company Nielsen NetRatings estimating that more than 1.5 million women watch porn every year.

According to the company’s most recent report, the industry is worth around 1 billion pounds, compared to 20 billion worldwide, and Britons look up the word ‘porn’ more than any other English-speaking country.