Online pornography worrying Britain’s 18 year olds

Published Wed 20 Aug 2014
Teenagers say online pornography distorting “damaging,” “pressuring” & “unrealistic”

Eight out of ten 18 year olds say it is too easy for young people to accidentally see pornography online, according to new polling for the think tank IPPR by Opinium. The exclusive polling of 18 year olds shows that seven out of ten say “accessing pornography was seen as typical” while they were at school. They say it became common when they were typically 13-15 years old.

The polling paints a picture of British teenagers uncomfortable with the impact of online pornography on young people’s attitudes to sex and relationships. It also shows today’s teenagers want relationship education, as well as sex education, delivered in schools by trained experts and external visitors.

The polling shows teenagers engaging in dangerous behaviours:

  • Almost half (46%) say “sending sexual or naked photos or videos is part of everyday life for teenagers nowadays.”
  • Seven out of ten (72%) 18 year olds say “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex” and that “pornography can have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships” (70%).
  • Two thirds of young women (66%) and almost half of young men (49%) agree that “it would be easier growing up if pornography was less easy to access for young people.” Two thirds (66%) say “people are too casual abut sex and relationships.”

It also shows a big gender difference in male and female attitudes among 18 year olds:

  • Almost eight out of ten young women (77%) say “pornography has led to pressure on girls or young women to look a certain way,” while almost as many (75%) say “pornography has led to pressure on girls and young women to act a certain way.”
  • Far more young men agree (45%) that “pornography helps young people learn about sex,” compared to young women (29%). While young women are far more likely to disagree (49%) that “pornography helps young people learn about sex,” compared to young men (28%).
  • Half as many young men (21%) as young women (40%) strongly agree that “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex”. Half as many young men (18%) as young women (37%) strongly agree that “pornography encourages society to view women as sex objects”.

More than eight out of ten (86%) agree that sex and relationship advice should be taught in schools. More than a third (37%) say sex and relationship advice should be taught from the beginning of primary school and almost half (49%) from the beginning of secondary school.

It also shows that seven out of ten (68%) 18 year olds want sex and relationship education taught by a trained expert and four out of ten (40%) want it taught by an external visitor who doesn’t usually teach at the school, while just two out of ten (19%) want it taught by a teacher from the school.

Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR Associate Director, said:

"This new polling data shows that pornographic images are pervasive in teenagers' lives and that young women in particular are acutely conscious of how damaging they can be. It paints a worrying picture about the way online pornography is shaping the attitudes and behaviour of young people. It is also clear that young people believe the sex education they currently get in school hasn’t kept pace with the realities of their digital and social media lifestyles. Young people want sex education that includes relationships, taught by experts, preferably who are visiting the school rather than having to discuss these issues with their teachers or their parents.”

Notes to Editors

IPPR’s new report – Young people, sex and relationships: the new norms – will be published next week.

Opinium conducted online interviews with 500 UK adults aged 18, between 19th – 27th June 2014. Full data is available from the IPPR press office on request and will be published at: http://www.ippr.org/publications/young-people-sex-and-relationships-the-new-norms

Contacts

Richard Darlington, 07525 481 602, r.darlington@ippr.org

 

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