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Despite the legal age to view explicit sexual content being 18, only seven percent of those aged 18 to 29 were older than this when they watched porn for the first time. And one in eight young men were first exposed to the abusive material before they were 12, found a new YouGov survey of 4,043 people.
The survey highlights the impact of the internet on the accessibility of pornography for different age groups.
Four in 10 Britons in their 30s (41 percent) first saw pornography while underage, falling to a third of Britons in their 40s (32 percent), a quarter of Britons in their 50s (24 percent) and just 10 percent of those aged 60 and over.
The Government’s latest attempt to regulate access – the Online Safety Bill – will legally require websites that publish pornography to check that viewers are over 18.
But a coalition of charities, organisations and experts has responded with frustration to the Government’s Online Safety Bill claiming it will not protect children from exposure to online pornography.
The Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) wants strict age verification to prevent children from accessing increasingly extreme online pornography which normalises coercion and violence against women.
However the Online Safety Bill proposes that watchdog Ofcom takes each and every website to court that fails to comply before being able to block access.
And Vanessa Morse, chief executive of CEASE, says the regulator does not have the capacity or means to do this.
“We have a moral duty to keep kids off porn and, currently, we’re failing,” she said.
“Violent pornography is ubiquitous online and it is being viewed every day by thousands of children across the country.
“This not only causes untold damage to the child viewers but fuels a culture and acceptance of violence, particularly against women and girls, which has spread into real life, driving “rape culture”, normalising harmful attitudes and inspiring sexual harassment and abuse in all areas of society.
“We have repeatedly raised concerns that porn sites are targeting children with advertising and content designed to keep them on the sites for longer and returning more frequently, resulting in them viewing increasingly violating and harmful material.
“The enforcement proposals to hold these hugely wealthy and powerful porn sites to account are impossible to deliver.
“We need urgent action from the Government to give Ofcom greater power to block porn websites which fail to comply with age verification measures before more children are exposed to irreparable harm. Otherwise, it is toothless.
Overall, 28 percent of Britons watched porn for the first time underage, while 29 percent were over 18, and 24 percent have never seen porn at all.
Four in ten men first saw porn while underage rising to 59 percent of 18-29 year old men.
By contrast, only 17 percent of women have done so, the YouGov poll said.
Five years ago, the Government passed a law mandating age verification for porn sites.
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