January 28, 2023

The Internet has transformed pornography, making it easier to watch and share than it was in the days of Playboy Magazine and late-night cable TV.

For teenagers, this has allegedly resulted in a flood of pornographic photos and videos that have invaded their daily lives a report Posted Tuesday.

Three-quarters of teens have seen pornography online before age 17, and the average age of first exposure to pornography is 12, according to a report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy group. It said teens were seeing the photos and videos on their smartphones, school devices and on social media, pornography and streaming sites.

The report highlighted how ubiquitous pornography has become, with 41 percent of teens saying they had seen images of nudity or sexual activity online during their school days. Most exposures were accidental, with 58% saying they weren’t looking for sexually explicit videos and photos, but came across them while surfing the web, on social media or through a search engine or clicking on an ad.

Adolescents are increasingly grappling with the impact of technology on their mental health and wellbeing. In recent years, lawmakers have criticized social media platforms such as Instagram for exacerbating eating disorders and have scrutinized how the sites are being used to sell illicit substances such as drugs containing fentanyl to teenagers.

There has been little research on the effects of online pornography on teens, but parents and politicians have been acrimoniously debating tech safety and whether discussions about pornography should take place at school or at home.Sex ed classes in Idaho last fall wrongly portrayed In posts and articles that promote sexually explicit content. Tweets related to the false report sparked outrage online and were mentioned on Fox News.In Louisiana, a new law Age verification will be required for porn sites.

“We can’t just cover it up because it’s uncomfortable to talk about,” said Jim Steyer, president of Common Sense Media, who plans to report to officials at the White House and federal agencies this week. “Pornography is a huge part of children’s lives, and they’re using digital devices like never before, and we need a national conversation about this.”

Part of the problem is that online pornography is a lucrative industry that has given it a foothold. While data on the size of the online porn industry is scarce, Alec Helmi, founder of XBIZ, a trade publication that investigates payment processors, estimates adult influencers and platforms will generate at least $15 billion in revenue by 2022. He estimated Internet porn revenues in 2012 at $5 billion.

In recent years, online pornography has grown into a business, with thousands of people owning their own streaming, texting and photo channels, which are promoted on sites such as Instagram and advertised on sites such as OnlyFans and PornHub, Mr Helmy said. hosted on the platform.

The Common Sense report is based on a September survey of 1,358 Americans ages 13 to 17. More than half said they had watched pornography of violent acts, such as rape, choking or people in pain. Most said pornography portrayed black, Latino and Asian people in stereotypes. More than half said they felt guilty or ashamed after watching porn.

Meanwhile, 45 percent said pornography provided useful information about sex. Especially LGBTQ teens said it helped them learn more about their sexuality.

“We have to be careful about all porn that’s good or bad,” said Emily Rothman, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University. “There’s nuance here.”

Schools, parents and political leaders have been at odds over how to approach the topic. David Miyashiro, superintendent of the Cajon Valley Unified School District in the San Diego area, said he held technology and safety workshops and discussions for parents but did not directly address pornography at any of the meetings. He said the refugee community and conservative Christians in the Middle East resented any sex education in the region.

The devices issued to students to take home have filtering software that runs through district servers to block access to pornographic websites and alert school officials to search for explicit and harmful content, he said.

“Sexual health and sex education are very family-friendly fields,” Mr Miyagi said. “A broad policy or position can sometimes isolate people and can make enemies or friends.”

Shelly Viramontez, superintendent of the Campbell Unified School District near San Jose, Calif., said there were also problems with the personal phones children brought to school. She and the counselor believed that her district had disciplined sexual behaviors that were associated with greater exposure to pornography.

“Parents in this generation are dealing with something that other generations have never had to deal with — the amount of information access in their children’s hands,” Dr. Viramontez said.

In the Common Sense survey, teens said a lot of what they saw was disturbing. Only a third said pornography included someone asking consent before engaging in sexual activity. Less than half said they discussed pornography with a trusted adult. Among those who did, the conversation “encouraged them to think about ways to explore sexuality other than sex or pornography,” the report said.

Teens looking for porn say their main sources are sites like PornHub and YouPorn. Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, and other social media sites rank second among sources of pornography.

Pornography is banned on Instagram, Snap, and TikTok. But these sites have been used in promotions linked to pornographic sites. They also prohibit individuals from directing users to pornography on other platforms.

In December, YouTube banned PornHub’s channel for repeatedly violating its policy against linking to sites that violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines, such as pornography. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has a similar ban on external links and says its algorithms are designed to limit the spread of pornography.

A YouTube spokesperson said its policy is to “strictly prohibit the posting of explicit content, such as pornographic content, that is intended to be sexually pleasing on our platform.” It is harder to search and find sexually suggestive content.

TikTok says it doesn’t allow sexually suggestive content in its “For You” feed, and that it blocks inappropriate searches and hashtags. “We continue to address this type of content at scale with strong policies, parental controls and technology to provide a safe and age-appropriate experience for teens,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.

Reddit declined to comment on the report, but said it does not have a strict ban on adult content. The app is more suitable for older users, with a minimum recommended age rating of 17. According to company policy, users under the age of 17 who enter group discussions that contain adult content are prohibited from using the app.

Snap says it bans accounts that promote sexually explicit content and is “constantly working to improve our efforts to combat it.” Snap says content from creators and publishers is moderated before it can be viewed by a large audience, which reduces violations of our Dissemination and discovery of policy content.

PornHub did not respond to a request for comment.

Teachers and parents say they can’t count on tech companies to block such content.

“You can’t blame technology for not having these conversations with kids,” Dr. Viramontez said.

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