Children raised on diet of porn a ‘risky experiment’

By Phoebe Cooke

Children are being "raised on a diet of pornography" which is leading to increasingly troubling sexual behaviour, a recent study has found.

The report, which was commissioned by the children's commissioner as an inquiry into child sexual exploitation, documents "risky" behaviours by children such as anal sex, 'sexting', and adopting "a casual and hedonistic attitude" towards sex.

"We are living at a time when violent and sadistic imagery is readily available to very young children, even if they do not go searching for it, their friends may show it to them or they may stumble on it while using the internet," children's commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson said.

"For years we have applied age restrictions to films at the cinema but now we are permitting access to far more troubling imagery via the internet. It is a risky experiment to allow a generation of young people to be raised on a diet of pornography."

Based on extensive academic research, the findings show how over-exposure to pornography, facilitated by the internet, directly correlates to unhealthy attitudes towards sex and relationships in children.

Atkinson called for urgent action to "develop children's resilience to pornography" after finding that a "significant" number of them have access to sexually explicit images.

The report also concluded that the DfE should rename 'sex and relationships education' to 'relationships and sex education' and that schools include lessons on internet activity in the classes.

Mumsnet recently carried out a survey on sex education for younger children which found 98% of mothers happy to have their children taught sex and relationships education.

Ninety-two per cent think the classes should be a compulsory subject in secondary schools, whilst 69% would also have it in primary schools.

In stark contrast to the current situation, 90% of mothers think there should be a statutory duty on all schools, including academies and faith school, to deliver comprehensive sex and relationships classes.

Deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz said it was key that parents also became involved in the debate, but that it was the responsibility of schools to ensure children were being properly educated in these matters:

"Some parents and carers simply will not take responsibility for discussing healthy relationships and sexual health with their children," she said.

"Education is the only universal lever we have to ensure all children are safeguarded against the possible impact of pornography."

The study was carried out by academics from the universities of Middlesex, Bedfordshire, Canterbury Christchurch and Kent. It was based on an in-depth analysis of 276 pieces of international research assessing the link between children and pornography.