UK MPs have been warned that a “guinea pig”generation of children is growing up addicted to hardcore Internet pornography.
According to a disturbing cross-party report, four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn online while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material.
It also cites figures showing that more than a quarter of young patients being treated at a leading private clinic are receiving help for addiction to online pornography.
One appalled MP revealed that her son had told her that swapping hardcore images on memory sticks between pupils at his school is “absolutely rife”.
There are fears that the rise of Internet pornography is leaving teenagers unable to maintain normal relationships and even increasing their susceptibility to grooming by sexual abusers.
The backbench Tory behind the study, Claire Perry, demanded that internet providers offer parents a simple way of filtering out adult content.
Even very young children can accidentally stumble across pornography, the report for the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection said.
“This generation is going through an experiment. No one knows how they will survive this unprecedented assault on their sexual development. They are guinea pigs for the next generation,”the Daily Mail quoted Miranda Suit, founder of campaign group Safermedia as saying.
David Cameron told MPs that he had called technology firms together to offer a ‘choice of blocking all adult and age-restricted content on their home internet’.
But the Prime Minister has been left frustrated by the unwillingness of the major internet service providers to force new customers to ‘opt in’ to adult content as opposed to the current system of ‘opting out’ by installing their own filters.
Perry’s report also revealed that the privately run Portland Clinic in London reported that 26 per cent of young people coming to it for psychological treatment were hooked on Internet porn.
Tory MP Andrea Leadsom revealed that her own son had told her that “handing around very hardcore porn on memory sticks is absolutely rife at his school”.
The mother-of-three fears regulators are ignorant about the availability of porn through internet-ready TVs, calling the Internet a modern-day ‘Wild West’.
Over 60 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds have Internet access in their own rooms, compared with 30 per cent six years before. Alarmingly, 41 per cent of seven to ten-year-olds can access the Internet from their own rooms, more than a fourfold increase on previous figures.
The report suggested 12 per cent of young teenagers were involved in sharing intimate images of themselves, which were often circulated around the class when a relationship broke up.