According to a study published yesterday, about 40 percent of American youngsters age aged between 10 and 17 years claim to have seen pornography on the internet. Two-thirds of respondents said the adult images were thrust upon them uninvited.
Published in the February 07 issue of the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the telephone survey questioned a representative sample of 1,500 US adolescents from March 2005 to June 2005.
The University of New Hampshire study said that many of the online pornography viewings happened when youngsters used file-sharing programs to download apparently benign images. The report claimed that accidental exposure to pornography could be more damaging than youngsters viewing images deliberately.
"Some youth may be psychologically and developmentally unprepared for unwanted exposure, and online images may be more graphic and extreme than pornography available from other sources," the report added.
Forty-two percent of respondents claimed to have been exposed to online pornography in the 12 months before they were surveyed. Of that cohort, around a third said they sought out the pornography. Typically, and unsurprisingly, these were teenaged boys.
The remaining youngsters exposed to pornography, 66 percent, said they were not trying to find graphic material when they encountered it. Reasons given for coming across such material included misspelled URLs, pop-ups and spam.
The report warned that, while teenagers viewing pornography is not unusual or unhealthy, overexposure could undermine social behaviours. It concluded that doctors, teachers and parents should assume that youngsters are being exposed to pornography.