1 in 3 parents concerned their children will become addicted to pornography

As the Government announces that the UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for online pornography in July, our new research reveals parents’ concerns about their children viewing online pornography.

What are parents’ concerns about children viewing sexual content online?

Our research found that parents’ fears included children having a distorted view of healthy sex and relationships, objectification of women and use of violence, the impact on body image and self-esteem and lack of understanding around consent.

We also found a third of parents (33%) fear their child could become addicted to porn.

The research comes as the government has today announced that pornography age-verification will be coming in on July 15, 2019.

Further key findings included:

  • More than half of parents fear their child may believe online pornography represents typical sex (52%)
  • 48% say it’s improper sex education leaving child with an unrealistic view of ‘normal’ sex
  • 47% had concerns that it gives a poor portrayal of women in pornography including violence and abuse
  • 44% feel it may impact their child’s expectations of what normal sexual relationships look like
  • 38% believe it will set expectations to engage in specific sexual acts as part of a relationship
  • 36% say it gives improper education about asking for and getting consent
  • 34% of parents say it harms their kids body image (Lack of confidence in their own body image)
  • 34% think children will become desensitised to brutal/violent content, becoming less upset, anxious or disgusted over time
  • 33% fear that children will become addicted to porn
  • 27% say it encourages poor self-esteem as they judge themselves against the actors

With this in mind, the introduction of age-verification is welcomed by parents as our research shows that more than 8 out of 10 parents (83%) feel that commercial porn sites should demand users verify their age before they’re able to access content.

And 69% of parents of children aged four to 16 also say they’re confident the government’s new ID restrictions will make a difference.

Combining Age-verification and other tools to protect children 

Age-verification was approved as part of the Digital Economy Act last year in a bid to stop under 18s accessing inappropriate content and the British Board of Film Classification were designated as the age-verification regulator.

CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting said: “We are delighted to see the government tackling the issue of online pornography – as children seeing content they’re not emotionally ready for can be very damaging, especially if they don’t speak out about it.

“While our research shows that parents overwhelmingly support age-verification and are confident it will make a difference, we must recognise that digital solutions aren’t the only answer and parents can’t become complacent about their child’s digital world.

“There is no substitute to having regular and honest conversations with your child about what they’re getting up to online, establishing an open dialogue about their digital life from a young age.”

Importance of talking to children about online issues

Internet Matters ambassador and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “Children seeing content they’re not emotionally ready for can have long-lasting effects if they’re not addressed and parents are right to have concerns.

“While tech solutions such as age-verification can help there’s always the chance something can slip through the net and parents need to be prepared for that.

“That’s why it’s important parents don’t shy away from having a conversation about pornography, however awkward they may anticipate it to be; It’s essential for protecting your child.”

Resources

See outline of key finding from our research into parents’ concerns about children viewing sexual content online and reactions to the introduction of age-verification requirements on commercial pornography sites.

See research findings

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