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Parenting and pornography: findings from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom

Summary report

Exposure to pornography is recognised as a real risk for children online, ranking highly, alongside cyberbullying and contact with strangers.

Pornography can negatively impact a young person’s mental health and wellbeing and their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and expectations about sex and gender. Exposure to pornography has also been found to shape sexual practices and strengthen positive attitudes toward sexual violence and aggression.

While parents tend to underestimate the frequency of their children’s exposure to online risks such as pornography, they are also seen as an important source of support and comfort for them.

Recognising the important role parents play in protecting their children from risks online such as exposure to pornography, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner in Australia, with Netsafe in New Zealand and the Safer Internet Centre with the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom (UK), collaborated on research that explores how parents think, and engage with this issue. This short report presents the findings of this joint research effort on parental attitudes to pornography. It also furthers the collaboration between the agencies which began with the December 2017 release of the report ‘Young people and sexting-attitudes and behaviours.’

In the past, the majority of international research focused on three points: children’s access, exposure to, and views of pornography and how this can affect their sexual identity development, sexual health, and mental health. Parents’ attitudes and views about their children’s experiences around pornography had not been comprehensively reviewed.

This research report summarises results from the first cross-jurisdiction quantitative study focussing on parents in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.