Advice from Childnet International
Young people can encounter sexual images both online and offline. This can influence how they think about sex, relationships and their own body image – and it can make children feel confused, embarrassed or worried.
It’s important that we talk to children about the sexualised content they see, including online pornography, to help them interpret and critique this information and to help them develop healthy and positive attitudes towards sex, relationships and their own body.
Parental control tools and filters can help to reduce the chances of stumbling across pornography online, but it’s important that we give young people the most important filter – inside their head – to help them understand the world they live in.
What does the research say?
NSPCC and Children’s Commissioner’s survey of young people:
- By 15, children were more likely than not to have seen online pornography (65% of 15-16 year olds report seeing pornography);
- Children were as likely to stumble across pornography via a ‘pop up’ as to search for it deliberately or be shown it by other people;
- Some 44% of males, compared to 29% of females, reported that the online pornography they had seen had given them ideas about the types of sex they wanted to try out.
UK Safer Internet Centre survey of parents:
- 27% of parents say they have spoken to their child about pornography
- 23% among parents of 5-11 year olds
- 43% among parents of 11-15 year olds
Talking to your children about inappropriate content online:
Children & pre-teens:
Issues to be aware of:
- Understand the law
While most pornography is legal, there are some categories of pornography that are illegal, for example child abuse images, and pornography that involves animals and extreme violence.
Your child might stumble across this, seek it out, or they may have been shown it by a friend.
It is important to help your teen understand what types of pornography are illegal, and make sure they know how to report anything. Explain that watching this content can have serious consequences, for example, you can be arrested or prevented from working with children.
- Report illegal pornography to the IWF: iwf.org.uk/report
- If you are worried that your child may be accessing illegal pornography you can contact the Stop It Now helpline.
- Age Verification
Under the Digital Economy Act, all online commercial pornography services accessible from the UK will be required to carry age-verification tools to prevent children from seeing content which isn’t appropriate for them.
HERE’S EVERYTHING WE KNOW SO FAR:
- All pornography sites must use age-verification software of some kind to block under 18s from accessing their content
- The British Board of Film and Classification (BBFC), will oversee the implementation of the regulations
- Internet service providers will be forced to block any websites that do not comply and fines of £250,000, or five per cent of financial turnover, could be implemented
- Pornography addiction
Viewing pornography can be a compulsive behaviour, and because of the pleasure and reward associated with it, it can be difficult to break the habit, much like with gambling or substance abuse.
If you have concerns that your child’s access to pornography is having a negative impact on their life, then you can speak to your GP and help reduce exposure to pornography by establishing some family rules. For example, you could decide that your family will not use technology alone. This may be that your child needs to be in a family room, or leave their bedroom door open.
- Childnet’s advice about parental control tools
- Family Lives – advice about pornography
- NSPCC – advice about pornography
- NSPCC – advice for talking about difficult topics
- NHS Choices – Advice on how to talk to your child about sex
- Brook – confidential information and support for young people
- Family Planning Association – advice about music videos, games, the internet and sex in the media