Children raised 'on diet of porn' more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, warns report

 

Children who access pornography are more likely to have sex at a younger age and engage in “risky behaviours”, a report by the Office of the Children's Commissioner has warned.

The office has called for urgent action to "develop children's resilience to pornography" after discovering that a "significant" number of them have access to sexually explicit images.

The Department for Education must ensure all schools deliver effective relationship and sex education, which should include safe use of the internet, the office recommended.

The report, commissioned by the office as part of its national inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs, is based on a review of academic research including 41,000 items of literature.

Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England, said: "We are living at a time when violent and sadistic imagery is readily available to very young children, even if they do not go searching for it, their friends may show it to them or they may stumble on it while using the internet."

She added: "For years we have applied age restrictions to films at the cinema but now we are permitting access to far more troubling imagery via the internet. It is a risky experiment to allow a generation of young people to be raised on a diet of pornography."

The report found that access to porn can lead to young people engaging in "risky behaviours" such as sex at a younger age, unprotected anal sex and the use of drugs and alcohol during sex.

It also said that access to porn can influence children's sexual beliefs, developing unrealistic attitudes about sex, bad attitudes towards relationships and beliefs that women are sex objects.

A "significant proportion" of children are exposed to or access pornography, which can occur both online and offline, the report said.

The Children's Commissioner found that exposure to porn increases with age, there is greater risk of exposure with increasing age. However, there were conflicting findings in relation to the average age of first exposure, ranging from 10 to 17 years old.

In its recommendations, the report called on the Department for Education (DfE) to ensure all schools provide relationship and sex education.

The curriculum should cover access and exposure to porn and sexual practices that are relevant to young people's lives and experiences.

In another recommendation, the report concluded that the DfE should rename 'sex and relationships education' (SRE) to 'relationships and sex education' (RSE).

The recommendations echo calls made by the End Violence Against Women coalition to make sex and relationships education compulsory in secondary schools.

A survey conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) recently found that many parents believe schools should teach children about the dangers of pornography as soon as they are old enough to use the internet.

The poll reveals that the majority of parents do not want it to be left to them alone to educate their youngsters about the controversial issue, and a large proportion think that pupils as young as five or six should be given lessons on the subject.

Dr Miranda Horvath, senior lecturer, Middlesex University, which led the review of academic evidence, said: "It is clear that children and young people want and need safe spaces in which they can ask questions about, and discuss their experiences with pornography.

"The onus must be on adults to provide them with evidence-based education and support and help them to develop healthy, not harmful relationships with one another.

"When pornography is discussed, it is often between groups of people with polarised moral views on the subject. Rather than adopting a particular ideological stance, this report uses evidence-based research to draw its conclusions and further the debate."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...