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One in three children under eight access porn. Is your child at risk?

By Melody Tan 2 min read

New data reveals a third of students aged eight and under attempted to access online pornography in the past six months. What can you do about it?

The number of students in NSW and Victoria looking for online pornography appears to be decreasing, but the statistics are still concerning:

  • 47 per cent aged 13 to 15 still attempted to access porn
  • 41 per cent aged under 13
  • One in three aged eight and under

The anonymised data was collected from 2000 students using the Family Zone internet filter in NSW and Victoria (some schools require parents to install the filter on their children's mobile phones, laptops and tablets). The figures include accidental access through unwanted pop-up ads and banners, as well as deliberate searches for explicit material.

In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Megan Lim, head of young people's health research at the Burnet Institute, warns that while internet filters such as Family Zone could be helpful for younger children, they came with "a lot of negative consequences" such as blocking access to health information and creating trust issues between parents and children.

To reduce the likelihood of children accessing porn, Christian sexologist and author Dr Patricia Weerakoon encourages parents to talk to their children about sex from a young age.

“Research reveals that early sexuality education from parents and primary carers influences children’s values and attitudes to relationships and sex,” Patricia explained to Christian media source Eternity News. “It can reduce the likelihood of sexual risk-taking behaviour, protect against sexual abuse and benefit healthy sexual development.”

Collett Smart, Mums At The Table's resident psychologist, says parents should be aware that just because their children have not mentioned anything does not mean they have not been exposed to porn.

"Often, kids don’t tell because they are worried about their parents finding out what they have been doing online, or felt they were to blame if someone showed them something," she says.

Collett suggests parents adopt her BREATHE method when they discover their child has seen porn:

Be ready and breathe. Be armed with knowledge about this topic. Take some time to work this out if you need to, but don’t avoid talking about it.

Reassure your child that you are not angry. Explain calmly what you found and tell them that you are there for them and you will now work through this together.

Expect initial denials or promises, because kids are embarrassed or afraid of your reaction.

Activities. Ensure your child’s life is filled with lots of healthy online and offline activities.

Technology check. Have you set up blocking software and parental controls on children and teens’ devices? Is technology out of bedrooms? (Note: Social media is not recommended for children under the age of 13.)

Have a plan. Sit with your child and draw up a plan for what they can do when future exposure occurs—because it will!

Enlist support. If viewing has become compulsive, seek the help of a child psychologist.

Australia is currently considering introducing age verification systems for accessing online pornography.

Melody Tan is editor of "Mums At The Table" magazine and a regular panellist on "Mums At The Table" TV show. She lives in Sydney with her husband and her son.