'10% of nine-year-olds have been exposed to pornography,' news report finds

Children Commissioner's report reittterates the impact of pornography on those as young as nine

Aimee Bond
13th February 2023
Lars Plougmann
In the wake of the shocking Children’s Commissioner’s report regarding the impact of pornography on young people, Dame Rachel de Souza has reiterated the urgency of the controversial Online Safety Bill, which aims to enforce age verification for users of platforms containing pornographic material. But what exactly is the Online Safety Bill and how necessary are these measures?

Based on a 2021-2022 government-commissioned review, this report highlights not only the scale of children’s porn consumption but the devastating ways in which this spills out into young people’s sexual experiences.

While the average age that children are first exposed to pornography is thirteen, 10% had watched porn by as young as nine. An increasingly concerning statistic given that those exposed to pornography at younger ages were not only more likely to become frequent porn users but significantly more likely to seek out violent content. Nearly twenty years since the launch of the first free porn sites, 47% of young people believe girls ‘expect’ sex to involve aggression, and the same percentage of respondents between 18-21 had experienced a violent sexual act.

47% of young people believe girls ‘expect’ sex to involve aggression

Undeniably, the increasingly violent nature of free and accessible online pornography has shaped young people’s understanding and experiences of sex and relationships, with only 4% of respondents disagreeing with this. The Children’s Commissioner has emphasized her concern for young girls, who are predominantly the victims of the misogynistic attitudes perpetuated by the free porn industry. While the Commissioner accepts that the Online Safety Bill is not a ‘silver bullet’ and should work in coordination with education, she continues to advocate for its swift implementation.

The Online Safety Bill plans to give communications regulator, Ofcom, the responsibility of ensuring that all platforms that require a minimum age for users clearly explain how this is enforced, with those who fail to do so risking fines and even a ban. Sites that are likely to be accessed by children also have a duty to prevent legal but harmful material from being accessed.

The Children’s Commissioner has called for pornography to be defined as harm to children on the face of the Bill, allowing Ofcom to rapidly set standards facilitating the rollout of age-assurance measures. However, human rights organizations have raised concerns about risks to anonymity and freedom of expression and information online, with the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee highlighting the risk of jeopardising Ofcom’s independence given the power the Bill affords to the Culture Secretary.

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