Watching pornography damages young people’s attitude to sex, according to a report which highlights “compelling evidence” of the negative effects pornography has on individuals.
The report, which analyses many different studies on the effect of pornography on children, was published by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
Report author Dr Michael Flood cited a study showing that young people who view pornography are more likely than non-users to have had sexual intercourse, masturbated, had homosexual sex and one-night stands.
His findings also show that, for boys in particular, the use of pornography may “encourage their participation in sexual abuse”.
Another “clear” conclusion was that “pornography can influence users’ attitudes towards and adoption of particular sexual behaviours”.
Watching pornography was also associated with adolescents learning to view women as sexual objects.
Dr Flood described correlations between young people’s frequent viewing of pornography and their view that sexual harassment is acceptable.
He said that pornography “is a very poor sex educator because it shows sex in unrealistic ways and fails to address intimacy, love, connection or romance”.
He also said: “There is compelling evidence from around the world that pornography has negative effects on individuals and communities.”
John Carr, a Government advisor and secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, commented on the report.
He called for “better ways to make it harder for kids to get hold of it”.
Dr Petra Boynton, a psychologist specialising in sex education, said: “Children are not necessarily looking at porn for gratification. They are doing so because they are bored and not supervised.”
In November a Labour MP warned that the UK is “awash with a focus on early sexual activity”, describing cases of children as young as five simulating sex in the school playground as a result of watching pornography.
Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, told the House of Commons: “Our children should be protected from pornography, whether it is on BSkyB or the internet. Childhood should be protected.”
In August a survey showed that 38 per cent of teenagers had received indecent sexual images by text message or email, many of which were from other teenagers.
‘Sexting’, as the sending of messages with sexually explicit content is known, is also leading to images being placed on social networking websites.