A recent report by the BBFC – which due to its “graphic nature” they have only made available on request – has found that parents in the UK are largely unaware of both the extent and nature of pornography consumed by their children. There were myriad reasons why 16 – 17 year olds are viewing porn with more regularity, including increasing normalisation through social media and apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp. Respondents also reported increasingly turning to porn as a form of sex education as teachers were not comprehensive enough when focusing on appropriate types of behaviour in sexual encounters, instead looking at issues such as contraceptive use.

The report also found that most of the children viewed porn they found to be aggressive or violent, and that they were concerned it had influenced their behaviour in sexual encounters as well as impacting their body image. Equally, many girls reported overhearing boys boasting about what they had seen in porn, and they were subsequently anxious about how they should behave during sexual encounters, as well as having concerns about sexual violence such as choking.

This is an absolute travesty. The report only confirms what anti-porn activists, academics, medical professionals and child protection charities have feared for many years. Porn has become disturbingly ubiquitous, with viewing figures of just one mainstream site – Pornhub – reaching the billions. The UK consistently reaches the top-three globally for porn most accessed by country.

The increasing availability of porn is nothing short of a disaster. Research has consistently shown the negative health impacts of porn use; add this to the fact that children as young as seven years old are now able to gain access, as well as parents being unaware of the extent of porn use by their children, and we have a real problem on our hands. Porn is no longer just the “magazine under-the-bed” trope (if indeed it ever was), but a violent, abusive, racist industry that thrives on capturing the attention of users from increasingly young ages, which in turn influences how those individuals grow up and develop socially, emotionally and psychologically.

There is a small silver-lining here though: the majority of parents support the reintroduction of the Government’s bungled “age verification” plans in an effort to prevent accidental access amongst young children. Part of the outcry against these plans originally was that it was supposedly so unpopular as to be totally unnecessary. But this research proves that parents – and rightly so –are extremely concerned about what their children might see online

CEASE UK strongly supports these parents and their cries to reintroduce age verification. We fundamentally object to the total lack of safeguards against an industry that promotes violence against women, causes anxiety amongst young girls about the possibility of getting choked during sexual encounters, and warps young minds about what sex and healthy relationships do and should look like.

We are calling on the Government to do two things: firstly, age verification needs to be implemented yesterday. The lack of safeguards against accidental viewing is staggering. If, as industry activists are so keen to impress, porn is only for adults, then there should be no objection to a mechanism that prevents those under 18 from accessing it.

Secondly, we are calling on the Government to re-evaluate how they are implementing their sex education programmes in schools in light of the consistent growth of the porn industry at large. The fact teenagers have to turn to porn as an educational tool is a grave failure by the State, and this has lifelong negative impacts on those who view it. Age-appropriate sex education in schools is a key part of facilitating healthy social and psychological development amongst children and teenagers. It is no good to simply ignore the fact these same individuals are turning to pornography to find out about issues they could otherwise learn in a safe, educational environment, instead of via an industry that depicts violence, misogyny and abuse as being normal parts of a healthy relationship.

The porn industry has created a public health crisis, and the Government can no longer sit by while it continues to destroy the lives of children and adults alike.