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‘A lot of it is actually just abuse’: children viewing pornography as young as nine

Ten percent of children have seen pornography by the age of nine, a new report by the Children Commissioner has claimed.

The report stated that the content that children may be accessing is not like the ‘glamour’ magazines of the past – in reality it is often violent and degrading, ranging from sex between family members to physical aggression.

It also found that words like ‘teen’ and ‘schoolgirl’ were more common in porn that contained sexual violence.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “I am deeply concerned by normalisation of sexual violence in online pornography.

“I will never forget the girl who told me about her first kiss with her boyfriend, aged 12, who strangled her. He had seen it in pornography and thought it was normal.”

The report also said that online pornography is freely available on websites such as Twitter and Reddit due to them permitting adult content, unlike Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

According to the report, teenage boys signed up for Twitter accounts with the express intention of finding adult content. 

Just under half of the children (47%) said they had been sent or shown porn involving unknown actors. 

One 16-year-old girl said in a focus group: “I think a lot of people are peer pressured into watching it and thinking they’re not cool or they’re not up to date just because they haven’t seen it before.” 

The frequency at which children are viewing pornography is something that the report mentioned with 21% of boys and 7% of girls viewing porn once a day or more often.

The review highlighted the harmful attitudes that porn created for women, with sex depicted as a “transactional, one-way interaction, in which women perform as objects for male gratification”. 

It concluded that pornography played a key role in the normalisation and condoning of sexual violence against women.

Young people, who responded to the survey, said that sex in porn focused on male pleasure, with an 18-year-old boy saying: “A lot of what young people see is actually just abuse.” 

The report stated that young people viewed healthy relationships with words like ‘trust, boundaries, consent and comfort’, and this contrasted with the descriptions of relationships in porn that are ‘unequal, transactional and impersonal’.

Young girls said they came to believe that sex should be for men’s enjoyment and and not their own. 

The report made some recommendations such as urging the immediate passing of the government’s Online Safety Bill and the registration of pornography as a harm to children on the face of the Bill and for Ofcom to start regulating platforms that host adult content. 

It also said that parents should have age appropriate conversations with their children and should encourage children to come to them for a non-judgemental conversation if they see anything distressing online.

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