Sending sexual or naked photos and videos is now part of everyday life for young teenagers, research involving 18-year-olds has revealed.
Furthermore, those involved in the research say that accessing online pornography “was seen as typical” while they were at school.
The initial findings have come from a poll of 500 18-year-olds from across the UK and have been published by think-tank IPPR.
They are to be included in a wider report, entitled Young People, Sex and Relationships: The new norms, which was due to be published as SecEd went to press this week.
The poll quizzed the 18-year-olds on their views about online pornography and the influence it has on young people’s attitudes to sex and relationships.
Eight out of 10 of the 18-year-olds said that it is too easy for young people to accidentally see pornography online, while seven out of 10 said “accessing pornography was seen as typical” when they were at school.
The activity usually became commonplace, they said, when they were aged 13 to 15.
Elsewhere, almost half of the 18-year-olds (46 per cent) said that “sending sexual or naked photos or videos is part of everyday life for teenagers nowadays”, while a majority agreed that “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex” (72 per cent) and that “pornography can have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships” (70 per cent).
There are also notable gender differences in some of the responses. For example, 21 per cent of the young men strongly agreed that “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex”, compared with 40 per cent of the women.
Also, 18 per cent of the young men strongly agreed that “pornography encourages society to view women as sex objects”, compared with 37 per cent of the women.
Eighty-six per cent of the young people said that sex and relationships advice should be taught in schools, with 37 per cent believing teaching should start from the beginning of primary and 49 per cent from the beginning of secondary school.
Sixty-eight per cent said these lessons should be given by a trained expert, while only 19 per cent wanted the lessons to be given by a teacher at the school.
Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR associate director, said: “It is clear that young people believe the sex education they currently get in school hasn’t kept pace with the realities of their digital and social media lifestyles.
“Young people want sex education that includes relationships, taught by experts, preferably who are visiting the school rather than having to discuss these issues with their teachers or their parents.”
The full report was due to be published yesterday, Wednesday, August 27, at www.ippr.org/publications/young-people-sex-and-relationships-the-new-norms