Professionals who work with young people are increasingly aware of – and concerned about – the extent to which young people access porn, including extreme and violent porn, and the influence this is having on their lives.1
If you work with young people, you understand that there is a wide range of issues that impact on their wellbeing, including education and employment opportunities, family and cultural background, physical and mental health, access to resources, and the influence of peers, the media and popular culture.
Explicit sexual imagery is increasingly part of young people’s lives, thanks to the new ease with which it can now be accessed, created and shared. This creates challenges and risks for young people, and also for the organisations that work with them.
The increasing prevalence of explicit sexual imagery may present itself in your work in any number of ways. For example:
- a young person accesses pornography using your organisation’s technology
- a young person creates explicit sexual imagery on their phone at an event you are running
- an upset parent contacts you to complain that their child had been exposed to pornography while in your care
- you overhear a group of young people encouraging their friend to comply with her boyfriend’s requests for an image of her breasts
- a young person becomes withdrawn or stops attending your service following an incident in which a sexual image of them was spread around local schools
- a young person who attends your service reveals that they have been pressured to engage in a sex act their partner has seen in pornography
- a parent contacts your service expressing concern about their child’s high level of pornography use
- a young person tells you that they can’t get images of the extremely aggressive and degrading porn they’ve seen out of their mind, and they’re having difficulty stopping themselves from accessing more
- a young person you work with has mimicked what they’ve seen in pornography on their younger sibling
- your service receives requests from schools for assistance to address pornography’s influence with their students.
Porn’s influence is not always obvious
These types of experiences, while increasingly common, are only part of the story. Often porn’s impact is quite subtle, influencing the ways young people think about and experience gender and sexuality. Indeed, much of pornography’s influence on young people can occur unnoticed by the adults in their lives.
Adults who understand how prevalent porn is, the kinds of messages it conveys, and the ways it is impacting on young people, can help to reduce these risks, and assist young people to navigate healthy social and sexual development in this new reality.
Parents, schools, community organisations and other professionals can all play an important part in efforts to address pornography’s influence on young people.