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The UEL survey, specially commissioned for the Channel 4 programme Porn on the Brain, looks at teen porn habits and reveals some shocking results about the impact porn is having on young people’s perception of sex and relationships today.
The ongoing study is being led by Dr Amanda Roberts and Dr John Turner from UEL’s School of Psychology. To date, more than 350 participants, male and female between the ages of 12 and 20, have responded to an online survey disclosing why they access porn, what types of images they view and with what frequency, and how the sexual imagery makes them feel.
Dr Roberts said: “Channel 4 came to us to conduct a survey examining the impact of porn on British teenagers. With smartphones commonplace and extensive online access, young people today are just a click away from literally billions of sexual images. Their use of or exposure to porn can heavily influence their understanding of what sex is or should be like, and how to engage with a partner.”
Within the age group 12 to 16 year olds, boys were far more likely than girls to have viewed sexual images. Nearly 80 per cent of boys had watched people having sex online in contrast to just 33 per cent of girls. Whilst some girls had never watched porn, all the boys surveyed had done so, with over half (51 per cent) looking quite a few times and nearly a third (27 per cent) admitting to looking a lot.
Among 16 to 20 year olds, nearly all the boys (97 per cent) and almost 80 per cent of the girls had seen sexual images. Whilst both sexes were similarly comfortable with viewing such imagery, nearly three times as many boys than girls felt their use of porn was impacting on their relationships or becoming a dependency. Over seven per cent of boys felt their viewing was getting out of control.
The survey asked participants to explain their feelings on what they viewed, and found that girls were far more likely to be confused, angry or frightened by what they saw online. Girls tended to be in groups when they were looking at sexual images often via Facebook and social media. However, boys were not using these channels to access porn and were mostly watching it alone. Over 10 per cent of both sexes felt they were looking at more and more extreme imagery.
Dr Roberts said of the preliminary findings: “Clearly, viewing porn is now considered the norm for young people, and with such uninhibited availability it is an uphill battle to stop teenagers from accessing it. There are marked differences between the way boys and girls relate to pornography, their use of it and their perception of sex. Sex education in school needs to address the reality of sex and relationships, and the unreality of what many young people are being exposed to online.”
Porn on the Brain will be broadcast tonight (Monday 30 September 2013) at 10pm on Channel 4.