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Minister 'shocked' and 'taken aback' at the age Irish children are viewing pornography

A new survey finds that 53% of boys in Ireland first watched porn under the age of 13.

The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor launchING a research report on sexual consent among third level students carried out by the NUIG
The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor launchING a research report on sexual consent among third level students carried out by the NUIG
Image: RollingNews.ie

MORE THAN 53% of boys in Ireland first watched porn under the age of 13, according to a new survey.

Launched in conjunction with the SMART Consent survey today, the NUI Galway report on porn finds that between the ages of 10 and 13, 23% of girls first encountered pornography.

The survey of 1,934 third-level students found that men are four times more likely to watch porn a few times a week than females.

The results concerning academics is how students have been influenced by porn.

36% of male students state that porn has influenced the way they interact with their partner about sex, with 29% stating they believe it influences how people behave during sex.

37% of male students state that porn influences the roles of men and women during sex, compared to 23% of women surveyed.

About a quarter of women surveyed said porn has influenced how they interact with their partner, while 24% said it influences how people behave during sex.

Just over 60% of students watch porn for masturbation, while 15% of students surveyed said they never use it.

Reacting to data on the number children under 13 who are watching porn, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she was shocked at the figures.

‘Taken aback’ 

“I am absolutely taken aback … I know normally politicians say they aren’t shocked by findings, but I am actually shocked, and I think parents will be shocked,” she said.

The minister added:

Pornography is not going to go away, so we are going to have to be computer literate and ensure that young people are guided through what they are seeing. And our beliefs and value systems, that they are able to check-in with their parents and schools to ensure they are coming away with the right messages.

0062 Report on Sexual Consent_90550728 Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor Source: RollingNews.ie

The minister said she would be working with Education Minister Richard Bruton in relation to the review currently underway into the relationship and sex education programme in Irish schools.

Government needs to ensure that the programmes is “fit for purpose… so we have a lot of work to do”, she said.

Speaking about her research, Kate Dawson of the NUIG School of Psychology said the conversation about pornography needs to be included in the national policy for sex education in Ireland.

“We really need, at the very least, to be talking about porn in sex education programmes but in an ideal world we would be rolling out pornography literacy interventions all over the place…

“If we can have an open discussion about it, in a non-judgemental way, so people can understand that there are massive differences as to how sex is portrayed in porn and then the type of sex that people want to have,” said Dawson.

She said parents and teachers should be starting those discussions at an early age, adding that making people ashamed of their behaviour will not have an impact.

‘Not good enough to just say “porn is bad”‘

We can start from a really young age with talking about sexual media, from hugging to kissing in kids cartoons to obviously the other end of the spectrum, which is talking about pornography.
But it is not good enough to just say that ‘porn is bad’ because it is not, people really enjoy watching it, there are a lot of positive uses, but people need to have the skills to make their own mind up about the content they see because porn is so varied, you can’t say for certain that everyone is watching this type of stuff.

Dawson said young people have to be given the skills and confidence to make their own minds up about the sex lives they want to have. Telling people that all porn is bad is not the answer, she said.

“I think a lot of time what happens when talking about pornography is that we take a very, kind of aggressive approach to talking about it, and all that really ends up doing is make people feel really bad about watching it – because as we know, loads of people are watching it.”

In order to start these conversations in Irish schools, the government must dedicate resources and support for teachers, said Dawson.

Sex education 

However, she added that mainstream teachers might not be best place to roll out sex education programmes.

“One easier way around is to talk about it in the context of media and sexual media – but we know from the research that most students don’t want their teacher, who perhaps is teaching them about maths, talking about masturbation, or porn, naturally.

Only providing those situations [where regular teachers carry out sex education] means you won’t be able to open up those conversations because everyone is going to feel really embarrassed. There are some really great organisations that are rolling out some really great programmes, that talk in-depth about porn, but we are not given the funding to roll this out on larger scales. It needs to be incorporated into national policy.
It does warrant a lot of attention, as at best children might get three classes dedicated to sex education in schools and we need a lot more than that.

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