Kids Helpline has a unique insight into young people's concerns about pornography. Children as young as 9 years have contacted them to talk about its impact.

As a parent it can be worrying to think about what your child is accessing online … often we don’t think they would be exposed to, or deliberately accessing, anything inappropriate. However, Kids Helpline’s counselling data show more and more children and young people are contacting the service with concerns about exposure to pornography. Their stories are varied and show both the range of issues, and the very real need for support.

From July – December 2016, 83 children and young people contacted Kids Helpline about concerns they had about pornography. Children as young as 9 years contacted us to talk about how this impacted on them. Most children and young people who contacted us were between 13 and 18 years, and of those 70% were male, 28% female and 2% unknown.

The callers reported that there were three ways they had been exposed to pornography: 73% said that they had deliberately sought it out (alone or with their friends), 11% said that it was accidental (typing in the wrong words or pop up porn sites) and 16% stated that they had come across it on a shared device in the home.

Exposure to pornography can have a significant impact on children and young people:
  • It can shape unhealthy sexual knowledge and attitudes and set up unrealistic expectations and sexual practices in their romantic relationships.
  • It can contribute to the objectification and degradation of girls and women, shaping power imbalances in romantic and sexual relationships and contribute to low self-esteem and body image issues in females.
  • It can contribute to normalising non-consensual, violent or aggressive sex.
  • It can lead to problematic use of pornography.

Children and young people told us that they want to talk about how pornography impacts on them but they were scared to with their peers and parents and other adults because they didn’t know how to and they felt ashamed and didn’t want to be judged by others.

Understandably, parents can find it difficult to navigate their own feelings about children’s exposure to pornography, as well as offer appropriate guidance to their children where it’s needed. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and there is help, information and support.

At Kids Helpline we provide space for children and young people to:
  • feel heard without being judged
  • explore their thoughts and feelings
  • express themselves
  • be validated
  • be supported
  • be given information and referrals to specialist support.

At Kids Helpline, we care, we listen.

Author: Lousie Davis
Practice Unit Manager, yourtown

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