Teens Consuming Pornography Startles In New Report

More forms of technology mean easy access to pornography for teenagers. A report released by Common Sense finds shocking data behind pornography consumption by minors.

Key takeaways:
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    A new report finds a majority of teenagers come into contact with pornography before 13 years old.
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    Consuming high amounts of pornography can cause increased sexual aggression and interpersonal relationship issues.
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    Research shows parents who communicate with children about pornography can have a positive impact.

Phones, tablets, and computers provide avenues for children and teenagers to come into contact with pornographic images. The report titled 2022 Teens and Pornography says 15% of children first saw online pornography at 10 years old or younger.

Common Sense published the study on January 10, and describes itself as a leading nonprofit in improving the lives of children and parents by providing education on various technology subjects.

The probe surveying teenagers was led by authors Michael B. Robb (Ph.D.) and Supreet Mann (Ph.D.). Robb and Mann document previous research showing 88% of teens and 42% of 10-year-olds have access to smartphones.

These types of devices allow children to view pornography without their parent's knowledge. According to Hartford HealthCare, the website Pornhub has more daily visits than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. Viewing porn at a young age can impact attitudes toward gender roles and sexual behavior. Violent porn can be a sexually degrading perception of females, leading to forms of sexual dysfunction.

In the Common Sense report, Common Sense CEO and Founder, James P. Steyer, says he hopes the numbers can encourage parents to speak to children about pornography.

While only 43% of respondents discussed pornography with a trusted parent or guardian, over half of those who report the talk encouraged them to explore sex or sexuality in different forms than pornography.

"“The results of this research confirm a very important point: It's time for us to talk about pornography. We need to consider conversations with teens about pornography the same way we think of conversations about sex, social media, drug and alcohol use, and more. Kids can and will be exposed to pornography one way or another, often before a caregiver has a chance to tackle the subject. But what trusted adults have to say about it matters.”"

— Common Sense CEO and Founder, James P. Steyer

Common Sense research conducted a demographically representative national survey of 1,358 U.S. teenagers. Of the sample size, 1,007 had been exposed to online pornography and 259 identified in the LGBTQ+ community. Participants involved in the study were exposed to pornography at different ages. The majority reported first viewing pornography between 11 to 13 years old.

Viewing pornography was more present in males compared to females. Fifty-two percent of cis males said they consumed pornography intentionally, while only 36% of cis females reported doing so. Research shows intentional pornography consumption was also more prevalent in LGBTQ+ respondents. Both transgender and nonbinary participants intentionally viewed pornography.

An overwhelming majority of the teens (76%) admitted to seeking pornography intentionally. Forty-four percent of those teens say they intentionally viewed pornography online once a week or more. More than 33% of respondents also admit to seeking pornography on different social media platforms each week.

The home is not the only place minors consume porn. One in four teenagers reported viewing pornography at school, while 43% of LGBTQ+ teens and 36% of teens in urban areas were more likely to view porn during school hours.

While a majority seek porn intentionally, 58% of respondents to the Common Sense survey admit they unintentionally encountered online pornography. Research suggests that teens not seeking pornography intentionally are still encountering it consistently.

“Of those who reported they have only ever seen pornography accidentally, 63% said that they saw pornography accidentally at least once in the past seven days. Overall, among all teens, nearly two in five (38%) reported that they had seen pornography accidentally in the seven days prior to taking the survey.”

Pornography can lead to misconceptions about sex. Viewers who watched violent pornography were more excepting of slapping and choking during sex versus individuals who didn’t view violent pornography. Also, many viewers noticed pornography features minorities in a stereotypical fashion. Teens overwhelmingly displayed negative over positive feelings regarding the portrayal of their identity in pornography,

In their conclusion, Common Sense highlights the need for parents to communicate with teenagers about pornography. Also, content filters and parental controls limiting explicit content on technology can help limit children’s access to porn.

Common Sense not only highlights parents' need to be involved in discussions about pornography but increased curriculum regarding the dangers that need to be present in schools.

In the U.S., 16 states have declared pornography a health crisis. Much data is still needed to confirm the specific effects of pornography on children to label it a health crisis.

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