Study claims 3 percent of kids have viewed online porn in the U.K.

By EJ Dickson on April 15th, 2014

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Whenever people talk about the evils of porn and how morally bankrupt the industry is, the first response is usually something along the lines of, “But… but think of the children!”

Recently, the online video regulatory agency Atvod (the Authority for Television on Demand) did just that. After surveying the Web habits of U.K. households, Atvod concluded that 3 percent of primary-school-aged children had visited a porn site in one month alone—or at least 44,000 children between the ages of 6 and 11.

Providing what Atvod refers to as “startling evidence of children’s exposure to hardcore pornography,” the study determined that one in 35 children aged 6 to 11 had viewed an adult website, as well as one in 16 children between the ages of 11 and 16. Pornhub was particularly popular, with 112,000 U.K. boys between the ages of 12 to 16 visiting the site in one month.

It’s worth noting, however, that Atvod concedes in a footnote that accompanies the report that study does not meet minimum sample size standards. “Measures for these demographics may exhibit large changes month-to-month as a result and should be treated with caution.”

Because Atvod only surveyed the porn-viewing habits of desktop users, rather than tablet or mobile users, these statistics actually might be a conservative estimates of how many children are accessing porn online. Yet Atvod was so shocked by the numbers that they’re recommending the government enact laws making it more difficult for children to access porn online, saying it’s “critical” that such legislation be enacted in parliament.

The U.K. government already has a contentious relationship with online pornography. with Prime Minister David Cameron launching a massive “porn blocker” initiative requiring Internet service providers to automatically block online porn, unless users specifically request to “opt out” of the program. Most major ISPs started blocking porn by default in late 2013; the Atvod study was conducted in December, so it presumably only refers to households that had “opted out” of the initiative.

I saw my first porn image when I was 9—a result of inadvertently downloading XXX wallpaper off the Sims community store. (It was a man going down on a lady, and I had nightmares about it for weeks.) I don’t think Atvod is wrong in bugging out over children accessing porn online. No matter how sex-positive you are, it’s tough to argue that it’s ever OK for a 6-year-old to regularly log onto Pornhub, simply because there are certain things children shouldn’t see or learn about until they reach a certain age; after all, adult content is called “adult” for a reason.

But it’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their children from accessing such images online by installing filters or monitoring their Internet habits. It seems that most parents in the U.K. already do these things—any way you look at it, 3 percent of children accessing porn is a small number—but even if they don’t, it’s by no means “critical” for adolescents to close their ears and shut their eyes whenever they see sex on the Internet until they turn 18.

I saw sex on the Internet before I turned 18, and I turned out OK. Actually, I’m writing about sex on the Internet for a living, so maybe I should rethink that statement.

Note: This story has been updated to clarify the study’s sample size.

H/T The Guardian