British Board of Film Classification on young people and pornography found that only 18% of th
e 11-13 year-olds surveyed had viewed online pornography intentionally. This means that 82% of 11-13 year-olds had come across online pornography unintentionally, just like my friend did. Research has also shown that more than 1 in 4 girls and 1 in every 20 boys is either sexually abused or assaulted before they turn 18. Another interesting finding is that child sexual abuse has been linked to greater risk of mental health issues in adulthood, as well as lower self-esteem and lower life satisfaction. This same link to poor mental health (depression, anxiety, loneliness) has been discovered when people consume pornography often.
How can we help them; How can we protect our children?
First of all, recognize this is an issue, and be sensitive to those who may have been exposed to pornography or sexual abuse. They need support and love, not criticism. Recognize that recovery is possible and that children or teens are often unintentionally exposed to pornography or subject to those who have been and act out inappropriately or become abused themselves because exposure at such a young age can normalize sexuality or sexual abuse and result in an inability to protect themselves.
Second, if you are a parent or family member, strive to teach children about healthy sexuality. Make it a continuous discussion throughout their development. Try to create a safe space where they feel comfortable coming to you about their questions and concerns.
"Educate Empower Kids" is a great resource, among many others, for parents to help them discuss this important topic with their children of all ages.
Third, teach your child and teenagers about consent which will help them to know what to do when faced with important decisions (especially sexual decisions) with other people.
Lastly, help those who have been exposed to pornography or who have been sexually abused to know that they are not alone. There are resources available to them. Counseling services are available to them as well as many others in the community. They (you) are not alone!
There is truly so much we can do to help support healthy development in young people in this digital age. There is hope and all is not lost!
British Board of Film Classification (2020). Young people, pornography, and age verification.
BBFC. Educate Empower Kids. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://educateempowerkids.org/
Fergusson, D. M., McLeod, G. F., & Horwood, L. J. (2013). Childhood sexual abuse and adult developmental outcomes: Findings from a 30-year longitudinal study in New
Zealand. Child abuse & neglect, 37(9), 664-674. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.013