Over two-thirds of 14 to 17-year-olds have been exposed to porn. One in four has seen porn before the age of 12 – mostly by accident, or by having it shown to them.

Seventy-two percent of teens who have viewed porn recently saw things that made them feel uncomfortable; and 42 percent of regular viewers would like to spend less time looking at porn – but they find this hard to do.

Seventy-one percent of young New Zealanders believe that children and teens’ access to online porn should be restricted in some way.

These were some of the findings released today from a survey of 2000 New Zealand teens conducted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. They survey was carried out for the major research project NZ Youth and Porn: Research findings of a survey on how and why young New Zealanders view online pornography.

Chief Censor David Shanks says that technological and social shifts have changed everything we knew or thought we knew about porn and young people.

“This survey has been an opportunity to get young people’s experiences on the table – to give them a voice to tell us how and why they are viewing pornography. We feel it is vital to put our young people front and centre in the debate around internet porn. Listening to what they have to say will give us the best chance to make a difference, and to help them.”

The survey reveals that young people think porn is too easy to access. They overwhelmingly agree that porn isn’t for children, and most agree that some form of online restriction is a good idea. Most young people were not seeking out pornography when they first saw it, but they came across it anyway.

The findings also showed that porn is informing young people’s views about sex. Young people know this, and they told us it can be a problem – many young people worry about the false expectations that pornography raises about sex and relationships, and the sometimes unhealthy attitudes, stereotypes and behaviours that are depicted.

“Our research provides New Zealanders and decision-makers robust and up-to-date evidence about what is happening and what the 

issues are, which can in turn inform work in areas such as public policy, health, and education.”

“We now have evidence we can use to give educators, parents, guardians and young people the tools, information, and support they need.”

Shanks says this research presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“A challenge, because it puts beyond doubt porn is now a fact of life for young New Zealanders. They have told us in their own words about how conflicted they can feel about this. They sometimes see violent, aggressive, misogynistic and coercive behaviour. An opportunity, because many young New Zealanders have told us they think about what they see, are aware that much of it is not for them – and they are up for having some limits.”

The research recommends taking a collaborative approach, incorporating regulation, education, and tools and information for New Zealanders.

Strong support amongst young New Zealanders for some kind of online restrictions on porn suggests that a well-designed regulatory response may actually be welcomed by many teens – including those regular viewers who would like to spend less time looking at porn but find this hard to do.

Too many young people do not have the information, support and tools to process and understand pornography, to deal with the sometimes negative consequences of exposure, or to avoid this material in the first place.

In September this year the Education Review Office criticised schools for not keeping pace with sexual education, and said schools needed to be teaching teens about pornography and sexual violence.

However, the research suggests that for education to be effective it requires a whole-of-community approach. The researchers have suggested a more informed, cohesive and collaborative approach is taken to ensure progress is made.

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