Safer Internet Day: Porn affecting 11-year-olds

Clare Jerrom
11 Feb 2014

Online pornography is increasingly disturbing and upsetting young people as young as 11-years-old and having an impact on their relationships, according to a poll by YoungMinds released today to coincide with Safer Internet Day.

The results of the poll, commissioned by YoungMinds as part of its YoungMinds Vs campaign, are released as we launch the latest strand of the campaign YoungMinds Vs Sexed Up which focuses on the sexual pressures that young people face.  

The poll shows that:-

  • One third of young people aged between 11 and 14-year-old have watched online pornography on a tablet or mobile phone.
  • Three quarters of 11-14-year-olds described their reaction to watching pornography as disturbed, upset, worried or excited
  • Over half of 11-14-year-olds who had viewed pornography said it had affected their relationships.
  • A quarter of 11-14-year-olds said they had viewed pornography with a group of friends.

In addition, half of 15-17 year olds had viewed pornography either on a tablet or phone and four out of ten 15-17 year olds who had viewed pornography said that it had affected their relationships.

Chief executive of YoungMinds Sarah Brennan said: “With a couple of clicks children and young people of all ages can now gain access to hard-core, very explicit imagery. For many children and young people exposure to online pornography is their sex education- what they see are often violent portrayals of sex that lack the love and respect that young people need in order to understand the key ingredients of healthy sexual relationships. For many understanding of what constitutes consent is also becoming very blurred.

“Pornography makes girls feel they have to act like porn stars and boys feel they have to act like they are constantly ready for sex and want to dominate and control women. All this creates insecurity, self esteem issues, shame, anxiety, fear and increases stress and pressure for both boys and girls,” she added.

YoungMinds launched YoungMinds Vs last month, our biggest campaign to date urging a mass movement of change for better mental health. As part of the campaign we are launching five mini campaigns urging change in the five areas that young people said were the biggest issues they face in 2014: youth unemployment, bullying, no access to counselling and support, sexual pressures and school stress.

Launched today to coincide with Safer Internet Day, YoungMinds Vs Sexed Up is calling for:

  • Clearer ways to report online content that is upsetting and disturbing and for sites to respond accordingly.
  • Every school to ensure that young people receive sex education that:
    • helps them to understand what a healthy relationship is and about want consent means in sexual relationships,
    • gives young people the chance to talk about pornography and how it influences expectations about sex and attitudes to others,
    • provides young people with a safe space where they can talk about sexual pressures.
  • Schools and youth settings to provide guidance on sexting so everyone understands the consequences.
  • More help and advice for parents and carers so they understand how to talk to young people about sex and consent in sensitive ways.
  • Safe online support for children and young people to discuss their concerns.

Sarah Brennan added: “We believe exposure to online pornography for children is a child protection issue that we need to take seriously. Parents need easy access to parental controls and resources to help them broach this subject with their children, as it’s really important to keep the channels of communication open.

“Sex education also has to be updated, at the moment it’s still far too biologically based and doesn’t focus enough on navigating relationships. “We  must ensure children and young people have people they can talk to and places they can go where they can get support 24/7 if they need it,” she concluded.

For more information about the campaign go to

Case study


1 Comment

  • debs north
    about 3 years ago

    Great to see a current poll and the flagging up of issues. Good that this echoes Brook Advisory and the PSHE assoc's calls for a complete overhaul of the sex and relationships work in schools. I work for providing extensive sex and relationships education and see young people in so much confusion and under so much pressure. They value so much the creation of safe and informative spaces to explore this stuff and all the foundational stuff that goes with it - body image. self esteem, decision-making, ambitions, role models, etc.

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