Middlesex led report calls for urgent action to protect children from exposure to pornography

24 May 2013

Urgent action to develop children’s resilience to pornography is needed according to a report for the Office of the Children's Commissioner, led by Middlesex University.

The research found that a significant number of children access pornography and that it influences their attitudes towards relationships and sex, is linked to risky behaviour such as having sex at a younger age and that there is a correlation between holding violent attitudes and accessing more violent media.

The report, launched on 24 May 2013 and titled ‘"Basically... porn is everywhere" - A Rapid Evidence Assessment on the Effects that Access and Exposure to Pornography has on Children and Young People,’ was led by Middlesex University’s Dr Miranda Horvath and Professor Joanna Adler. It found that:

  • Children and young people’s exposure and access to pornography occurs both on and offline, but in recent years the most common method of access is via internet enabled technology
  • Exposure and access to pornography increases with age
  • Accidental exposure to pornography is more prevalent than deliberate access
  • There are gender differences in exposure and access to pornography with boys more likely to be exposed to pornography than girls.

In addition, the report highlighted that there are many unanswered questions about the affect of exposure to pornography on children, which requires more research and urgent attention.

The report is based on a review of published evidence led by Middlesex University in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Kent, supplemented by a focus group of young people.

The researchers identified 41,000 items of academic literature about pornography undertaking an in-depth analysis of 430 to draw its conclusions.

Middlesex University Senior Lecturer Dr Miranda Horvath said:  "It is clear that children and young people want and need safe spaces in which they can ask questions about, and discuss their experiences with pornography. The onus must be on adults to provide them with evidence based education and support and help them to develop healthy, not harmful relationships with one another.

"When pornography is discussed, it is often between groups of people with polarised moral views on the subject. Rather than adopting a particular ideological stance, this report uses evidence based research to draw its conclusions and further the debate."

Recommendations from the report can be found in the Office of the Children's Commissioner's press release

View the PDF of the full report

For more information on how to keep children safe online, visit the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's website.

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