Adult content, online addiction and UK Sex-Ed

Life lessons: By 2019 every English secondary school will be required to provide sex education.

How can the internet be made safer? As new laws made to protect children from graphic websites are put on hold, The Day speaks to the NSPCC about the impact of adult content on young people.

“I was online and someone I had never heard of before messaged me and told me to check out this website. It was a porno website, and ever since I looked at it I have become addicted and I just feel weird. I am really ashamed … I am so scared my mum is going to find out.”

These are the words of an 11-year-old girl, taken from just one of thousands of calls Childline has received from young people deeply worried about pornography.

The government has promised action to prevent incidents like this. For example, a law requiring people to prove they are over 18 before accessing pornographic websites was due to come into force this month, but has been delayed.

According to the NSPCC’s Abbie Gillgan, this new law will have a big impact: “For young people who accidentally view pornography, the chance of it happening is going to be vastly reduced.”

“But it is not a silver bullet,” she adds, saying that education is also key. This means “giving young people the ability to analyse what they’re seeing online and to understand that it’s not real life”.

For children, the fantasies it promotes can be harmful: from encouraging risky sexual behaviour, to fostering warped views about consent, body image and gender relations.

But what more should be done about the issue?


Reducing access is the way, some say. Age verification for websites is a big step, but we must cast the net wider. For example, social media sites like Instagram and Facebook are notorious for allowing pornographic content to slip through their filters.

Education is the key, others respond. It is inevitable that young people will see pornography at some stage. Therefore they must be equipped to deal with it when this happens. This means supportive conversations about sex must be taking place in homes and schools.

You Decide

  1. Is sex education good enough for students your age?


  1. After reading this article, do you have any questions or concerns about anything discussed within it? If you like, write these questions down. Is there somebody you feel confident you could ask the questions?

Some People Say...

“The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

Pope John Paul II

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In the last three years, Childline delivered 2,025 counselling sessions about porn. Where the age was known, more than one in 10 of these sessions was with a child aged 11 or under; 63% were with children aged 12-15.
What do we not know?
Pornography addiction is not an official mental health disorder, and scientists are still working to establish how addictive it may be.

Word Watch

A free 24-hour counselling service for children in the United Kingdom. They can be reached on 0800 1111.
Images and films of people having sex or behaving sexually. Participants could be semi-naked or naked.
Part of the Digital Economy Act, prepared by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
NSPCC’s Abbie Gillgan
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Abbie Gillgan is a project manager in the charity’s Child Safety Online team.
Silver bullet
One simple solution to a complicated problem.

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