Young people who watch pornography, which is now easily accessible on smartphones and other devices, are more likely to sexually abuse another child or young person, warns a study. Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia found that young people who had sexually abused other children said that helping them to manage pornography and improving their sex education could have helped prevent their abusive behaviour.
“The access that young people are having to pornography, as well as our collective ‘turning a blind eye,’ is akin to a kind of cultural grooming of children,” said study lead author Gemma McKibbin. Researchers asked 14 young people what could have been different in their lives so that they did not develop harmful sexual behaviour. Sexually abusive behaviour occurs when a child or young person sexually abuses another child or young person.
Previous studies have shown that about half the victims of child-on-child sexual abuse are under the age of six, while the children who abuse are themselves likely to be aged just 12. Of the young people who participated in the study, 12 said they had been exposed to pornography, while three of the boys directly attributed their sexually abusive behaviour to their pornography consumption.
“We can’t on the one hand say we don’t want to talk with young children about sexuality, while on the other hand do nothing about the multi-billion dollar pornography industry and the telecommunications industry that is enabling access,” McKibbin added.
“It may be that government needs to intervene at this point. Pornography can’t be seen as the sole responsibility of parents or schools because it has gone way beyond that. We probably need to engage directly with the pornography industry and the telecommunications industry,” she said.