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pornography on the brain: are young people at risk?

Pornography has never been more immediately available than now, and smartphones mean parents have little control over their children’s exposure to the full gamut of sexually explicit material on the web. This generation is the first for whom free ‘tube’ sites, webcams and sexting are a normal part of teenagehood, and there are fears this could be having an untold impact on their expectations, attitudes and behaviour. But what does the science say? What does the evidence tell us about the effect of exposure to online pornography on young people? And how do scientists even go about researching such a contentious subject?

This background briefing at the SMC featured researchers conducting studies in this relatively unstudied area. Questions they are starting to look at include:

  • Does viewing porn affect behaviour in teenagers? Could it affect their brains?
  • Is there any link between viewing violent porn and sexual violence?
  • Do people get addicted to porn, how many young people can be called ‘problem users’, and what is the role of sex education?



Dr Miranda Horvath, Reader in Forensic Psychology and lead author on a report for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Middlesex University

Dr Valerie Voon, Honorary Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Wellcome Trust Fellow with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge

Dr Mark Limmer, Lecturer in Public Health, Lancaster University

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