If you are ever unsure just how big an influence the pornography industry has then consider this. The Children's Commissioner has released a report - ‘A lot of it is actually just abuse.' Young people and pornography - highlighting that in 2020, the 4 largest dedicated pornography sites received nearly 11 BILLION visitors each month. That itself is a number hard to fathom but when you then read that this equates to more visits than Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Zoom and eBay combined reality hits home. Pornography is BIG business.
In reading facts such as this you can then see why 27% of the young people surveyed (aged between 16 and 21) revealed that they had seen pornography by age 11 with 10% having seen it by the age of 9. The report states that the average age at which children first see pornography is 13 years old.
We may think our children don’t access dedicated pornography sites, but the Children’s Commissioner findings tell us different, and it comes directly from young people. Not only are some young people accessing dedicated pornography sites but they are telling us that pornography is widely seen on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat; sites that so many children and young people use on a day-to-day basis.
In the report, Dame Rachel de Souza shares that young people told her, in unequivocal terms, that harmful behaviour is directly influenced by violent and abusive pornography.
We know that children’s understanding of sex and relationships, sexual pleasure and harm is influenced by pornography, we have children here telling us so.
In late 2021 the world famous singer Billie Eilish talked about her experiences with viewing pornography and it destroying her brain, in an interview on The Howard Stern Show. She spoke of watching pornography from the age of 11 and not understanding why it was a bad thing, she thought it was how you learned about sex. She went on to say “It got to a point where I couldn’t watch anything else unless it was violent, I didn’t think it was attractive”. Eilish spoke frankly about doing things [sexually] that were not good because she thought that was what she was supposed to be attracted to.
There is no doubt that for many years sexual violence and coercion has become normalised in pornography. In this report we see that 79% of 18-21 year olds had seen pornography involving sexual violence before they turned 18.
Tech companies, now more than ever, must take responsibility for protecting children. The Online Safety Bill is a vital lever in ensuring platforms take their duties to protect seriously, but they should not wait until this has passed through Parliament. They need to act now.
Marie Collins Foundation works tirelessly to support victims and survivors of technology-assisted child sexual abuse in their recovery journey. As adults we need to become more comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations, whether as parents, teachers, or practitioners. We need to be able to develop their understanding in healthier and ways that are reflective of the real world. We have resources that can support you in this, or contact us should your require specialist training or support.