Survey finds sexual imagery part of life for teens
MOST young people find it "too easy" to accidentally see pornography while online, and almost half of teenagers regard sending sexual photos or videos as part of "everyday life", according to new research released today.
Children as young as 11 are regularly exposed to online porn, and by the age of 14, 45% are watching explicit content on the web, according to the report by the Institute of Public Policy Research think tank.
It reveals the results of a poll of 500 British 18-year-olds in which the majority warn of the "damaging" and "addictive" effect of sexual images and videos readily available online.
80% say it is too easy for young people to stumble across it and most recall "accessing pornography was seen as typical" while they were at school.
At least 70 per cent agree that "pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex" and "can have a damaging impact" on views of sex or relationships.
And more than half those surveyed say "it would be easier growing up if pornography was less easy to access for young people".
The teaching of sex and relationship advice in schools is backed by 86 per cent. One in three would like it to be one of the first things they learn at primary school.
Most think it should be taught by trained experts - with less than one in five wanting it taught by one of their teachers.
The research shows "that pornographic images are pervasive in teenagers' lives" and "paints a worrying picture about the way online pornography is shaping the attitudes and behaviour of young people," said Dalia Ben-Galim, associate director of IPPR.
This comes just a week after a series of articles in The Independent on the risks posed to young people by the internet - dubbed a "lawless jungle that will soon be too dangerous for children to use" by former senior Government adviser Anthony Smythe.
Responding to the findings of the IPPR report, Claire Lilley, head of online safety at the NSPCC, warned: "The explosion of easy-access online pornography can impact children's view of what is normal and acceptable sexual behaviour."
It can make boys think that "girls are for sexual gratification" and make some girls "feel they have to look and perform like porn stars to be liked and valued by boys."
She added: "To protect them from these damaging messages children must be taught about sex in the context of healthy, caring relationships and how to protect and respect themselves and others."
And Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Given the rising levels of pornography which is very much in the public domain it is essential that sex and relationships education should be a statutory part of the national curriculum."
She added: "If this does not happen in schools, a golden opportunity is missed to provide young people with some of the tools they need to lead safe, healthy and happy lives."