At the end of March this year, Childline reported that they had received around 18,000 visits to their online forum where exposure to porn was the issue kids wanted advice on or wanted to discuss. In the previous two years, having plucked up enough courage, more than 1,000 young people had even gone so far as to ring Childline to talk to them about it.
This prompted some further research, including an online survey of 2,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17. The results of the survey were astonishing and understandably attracted a great deal of media attention, some of it a little critical of the NSPCC’s methodology. Nevertheless the research highlighted the fact that a number of 12-13 year olds are worried that they may be ‘addicted to porn’, seemed to believe watching porn is ‘normal’ or admitted to making or having been part of a sexually explicit video.
The research also found that around one in five of the children surveyed had seen pornographic images that had shocked or upset them. This is fairly closely aligned to Europe-wide research carried out with 10,000 young people by Professor Sonia Livingstone and her team at the London School of Economics in 2013. With this much larger sample pornography topped the list of their concerns.
Returning to the Childline research: Childline decided to act on their findings.They started by talking to children and young people themselves. The result was a campaign called Fight Against Porn Zombies.
If you go to the site you’ll see some well-designed and thoughtfully presented material, using very direct language, including sometimes quite graphic terminology. I believe this is the only way to go in this area. Goodness knows, some adults have several extremely odd ideas about sex and sexuality as a result of experiences they had or ideas they acquired when they were younger.
When the current generation of adults were younger lots of things that were said about sex went unchallenged or were simply assumed, left unsaid, when they should have been spelled out. This really won’t do any more. Say it like it is.
Why does porn matter?
Many people object to porn on principle, perhaps for religious reasons. Others feel that porn demeans us all because it reduces a vital aspect of human behaviour to a loveless commodity that can be bought and sold or passed around.
One might feel adults can freely choose to engage with porn but younger people need protection from it because they do not yet have the emotional and intellectual tools or life experience which would enable them to process much of what is now visible on the internet.