CHILDREN as young as seven or eight are watching or stumbling across pornography, new research has said.

The majority of young people's first time watching pornography was accidental, with over 60% of children 11-13 who had seen pornography saying their viewing of porn is unintentional.

The research commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) - which gives movies their UK age certificates - says 83% of parents agreed that age-verification controls should be in place for online pornography, BBFC, the age-verification regulator, commissioned the research after an age-check scheme designed to stop under-18s viewing pornographic websites was delayed. It was due to come into force in July.

Age checks were originally proposed by the now defunct regulator Atvod in 2014 and were enacted into law as part of the the Digital Economy Act 2017. But their rollout has been repeatedly delayed.

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In the new online survey, more than half (51%) of 11 to 13 year olds reported that they had seen pornography at some point, rising to 66% of 14-15 year olds.

The majority of young people's first time watching pornography was accidental, with 62% of 11-13 year olds who had seen pornography reporting that they stumbled across it unintentionally.

Children described feeling “grossed out” and “confused”, particularly those who had seen pornography when they were under the age of 10.

The report also demonstrated a discrepancy between parents’ views and what children were actually experiencing.

HeraldScotland:

Three quarters (75%) of parents felt that their child would not have seen pornography online. But of their children, more than half (53%) said they had in fact seen it.

Some 2,344 parents and young people participated in the research, which was carried out by Revealing Reality.

David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, said: “Pornography is currently one click away for children of all ages in the UK, and this research supports the growing body of evidence that it is affecting the way young people understand healthy relationships, sex, body image and consent. The research also shows that when young children — in some cases as young as seven or eight years old — first see pornography online, it is most commonly not on purpose.”

Most children and parents interviewed believed that age-verification would prevent children from accidentally seeing pornography at a young age, and would potentially delay the age at which they are exposed to it.

And some 83% of parents surveyed agreed that there should be age-verification controls in place for online porn.

The research also showed that young people want age-verification - 47% of children felt age-verification was a good idea, with 11-13 year olds more in favour than older teenagers.

David Austin added: “It’s very encouraging to see that there is so much public support for age verification. We know that age-verification is not a ‘silver bullet’, nor should it be seen in isolation, but alongside other measures, such as education. However, age-verification significantly reduces the risk of young children stumbling across online pornography by accident as they do today. The research findings today have shown that parents and importantly, young people and children, want and need there to be stronger controls in place. ”

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The report also looked into the effects of pornography on young people. 41% of young people who knew about pornography agreed that watching it made people less respectful of the opposite sex.

Girls in particular spoke of their fear that aggressive depictions of sex would be seen as ‘normal’ by young male viewers of pornography, and accordingly copied in real-life sexual encounters.

The introduction of age-verification in the UK was delayed from 15 July 2019 because the government failed to inform the EU of its proposals.

The age block was due to be one of the first of its kind anywhere in the democratic world. Websites that refused to implement the checks faced being blocked by UK internet service providers or having their access to payment services withdrawn.

But the scheme came under repeated attack from privacy campaigners who raised fears that – despite the reassurances of age-verification sites – it would be possible to connect an individual’s browsing habits to their identity, which could then be exposed in a data leak.