Teenage boy on sofa looking at phone

Online porn

Advice to help you understand the risks and talk to your child about online porn.

It can be hard to know how to talk to your child about the risks of watching online porn. Our advice can help you explain the risks to your child, prevent them from watching porn, and know what to do if your child has explicit or upsetting content online.

Why children watch porn online

It’s normal for young people to be curious about sex and relationships and sometimes they may search online for information or answers to questions they have. They may also do this if they’re worried or embarrassed about asking their parents or guardians.

Some of the reasons children and young people watch or search for porn online include:

    • to learn about sex and sexual identity
    • for sexual arousal and pleasure
    • curiosity
    • for "a laugh"
    • break the rules
    • to be disgusted
    • to "freak out" their friends
    • peer or relationship pressure.

Sometimes children may come across porn or sexually explicit content online accidently by clicking on website pop-ups or misleading links. Setting up parental controls on your child’s online devices can help prevent this.

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice. Call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support

Risks of children watching online porn

Children and young people watch porn or sexually explicit content are at greater risk of developing:

    • unrealistic attitudes about sex and consent
    • more negative attitudes about roles and identities in relationships
    • more casual attitudes about sex and sexual relationships and an increase in ‘risky’ sexual behaviour
    • unrealistic expectations of body image and performance.

How to protect your child from online porn

Make sure that any adults viewing pornography on shared devices in your home don’t save their passwords or leave themselves logged in. Browser settings may need to be set to prevent passwords being auto-filled.

Have parental controls or filters installed on your home Wi-Fi and make sure that child friendly settings are in place on your children’s devices. You can call the NSPCC O2 Online Safety Advice Line for support with setting these up on 0808 8005002.

Use our tips above to help you talk to your child about what they do and see on the internet, and to let them know you’re there if they have questions about porn, sex and relationships.



"I’ve been watching a lot of porn recently – it’s become a bit of an addiction. I think about sex all the time.

Whenever I see a girl I fancy I think about how it would be to sleep with them and do the stuff I’ve seen in porn films.

I can’t help it even though I know it’s inappropriate."

                                             Boy, aged 12-15

How to talk to your child about online porn

It’s natural to feel anxious or unsure about talking to your child about online porn, but being open and honest can help them to understand the risks and feel more comfortable talking to you if they’ve seen something that’s worried or upset them online.

If you discover that your child has been watching or sharing explicit content online, you might feel a lot of different emotions. These could include feeling disgusted, shocked or like their childhood is slipping away.

But it’s really important that you think carefully about how to react. Children watch porn for all sorts of reasons, including by accident, and you need to make sure that they can come to you for help and advice when they need it.

Reassure your child that it’s natural for them to feel curious about sex and that they can always talk to you if they have questions or concerns. Explain that you understand they may feel worried or embarrassed about talking to you.

Talking to your child about healthy relationships can help them understand the differences between porn and real life. Talk to them about what makes a positive and healthy relationship. Ask them what they think makes a good relationship. 

It can help to talk to them about things like consent, personal boundaries and staying safe from sexual abuse. Explain to teenagers that they can talk to you or get support from Childline if they feel pressured into having sex or watching sexually explicit content. This conversation may vary depending on your child’s age.

Explain that sex in porn is often different to how people have sex in real life. People in porn videos are acting and putting on a performance so things are exaggerated and the lines between consent, pleasure and violence are often blurred. It's important for young people to know the difference between porn and healthy relationships.

Childline has advice for young people to help them understand online porn myths.

Sometimes children and young people feel pressured to watch or share porn. This pressure can come from their friends, peers or a partner. Explain to your child that while some people watch porn online, not everyone does and it’s definitely not something they have to do.

Let them know it’s okay not to want to watch or do something that makes them feel uncomfortable and they should never be pressured or forced into anything. Explain why online porn isn’t appropriate for young people and what the risks of watching it are.

Some young people worry that they watch too much pornography, and might feel like they can’t stop viewing it. This can make them feel guilty or ashamed, and they may want help to stop viewing pornography. Childline has advice on addiction that your child may find helpful.

Childline

Young people under 18 can get support from a Childline counsellor via 1-2-1 chat, email or over the phone.

Childline has online advice for children and young people about:

Other websites

Thinkuknow - offers age appropriate advice for young people, with content for ages 5-7 up to 14+. They also have content for parents and other adults responsible for children.

Brook - the UK's largest young people's sexual health charity. For 50 years, Brook has been providing sexual health services, support and advice to young people under 25.

BBC Advice - helps young people with a broad range of issues. The information on the site is based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups.

Is watching or sharing porn against the law?

It isn’t illegal for children and young people under 18 to watch porn, but it is against the law for anyone to show them porn or give them access to it. Any young person worried about this should contact Childline.

It’s also illegal for anyone under 18 to share explicit images or films of themselves or another young person, even it was shared with their permission. Only the police can decide whether or not to charge a young person with a crime. It’s a good idea to speak to them if you’re worried.

Some types of porn are illegal, even for adults. These are called “extreme pornographic images” and include porn which:

    • threatens a person’s life or results in serious injury
    • shows violence such as rape or abuse
    • anything involving children under 18.