This week the results of study by Plymouth University were published. Academics found that it was ‘common practice’ for children to become desensitised to sexual images after accessing hard core material at an early age. They found that some young people are becoming ‘hooked’ on online pornography even before they become sexually active, leading to problems later in life.
The problem would appear to be endemic with some children saying that they first watched pornography ‘aged 11 or 12’. One 14 year old pupil told researchers that he couldn’t “believe there was anyone in his year who hadn’t seen it.”
Let’s be in no doubt that we are not talking about soft-focus smut and come-hither glances. The pornography which our children are able to reach with just a few clicks of a mouse is hard-core, dehumanising, debasing and often violent.
For years we have been peddled the lie that pornography is harmless fun. The results of this research show that this is just not the case. One third of young adults are experiencing relationship problems because of what they have seen online. As a Relate spokesperson said, pornography distorts their views of what “a normal sex life could and should be like.”
It is hardly surprising that the National Association of Head Teachers has called for age appropriate sex education guidelines to cover ‘the impact of porn’. “Children are growing up in an overtly sexualised world”, explained their Policy Advisor, “that includes easy access to porn and they need the skills to deal with it."
As a society, we have failed to face up to the effects of pornography and it is our children who have become the casualties.
Later this year the outcome of the recent consultation into protecting children online will be announced. It is to be hoped that commercial interests or mis-advised concerns about censorship do not prevent the Government taking a stand to ensure that children are adequately protected from the poisonous effects of pornography. We can no longer afford to ignore the urgency of this issue and we must act now before a further generation pays the price.