Sunday 21 July 2019

Young people are 'using porn as a source of sexual education' - study

Youth workers found that a many young people are
Youth workers found that a many young people are "unaware" that pornography is "unrealistic". (stock photo)
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

A number of youth workers believe that pornography has led to young men having "disrespectful and sometimes aggressive" attitudes to women, a new report has found.

Some 84pc of respondents in a survey carried out by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) said that they believe pornography in general has an impact on the youth of today.

When asked how porn has an impact, one of the key themes that appeared was that it gives young people an unrealistic representation of sex and sexual relationships.

According to the youth workers, many youngsters are unaware that what they are viewing is "unrealistic" and are using pornography as "a source of sexual education that often goes unchallenged".

"Some young men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women have been noted as disrespectful and sometimes aggressive," the report said.

Other respondents said that pornography "rarely demonstrates discussions about emotions, giving consent, and/or engaging in foreplay".

Other members of the voluntary youth organisations said that young people are engaging in "riskier sexual behaviours by mimicking the pornography they have seen", including not using contraception.

A further 52pc of respondents said they believe they need more training and resources to address the needs of young people in relation to pornography and their sexual health.

Of these, 18pc said they needed further guidance on how to discuss these issues in an "appropriate way".

The findings were published by NYCI as part of a new National Youth Health Strategy for 2018-2022 alongside the HSE and Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The strategy aims to drive change over the next five years across the nationwide provision of evidence based training and resources for those working with young people, on topics responding to their needs, including mental health, porn and physical activity.

It also aims to develop and promote a culture within organisations in the youth sector which focuses on health and wellbeing, as well as advocating on issues that affect the health and wellbeing of young people.

Launching the strategy today, TD Catherine Byrne, Minister of State at the Department of Health, praised the work carried out by organisations in NYCI and said the strategy will "further enhance" their work.

"Health promotion in the youth sector is key to helping young people live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives, and to develop the skills they need to deal with the ups and downs that come their way," Ms Byrne said.

"It is so important to encourage our young people to participate in physical activity and make healthy choices, and to support them to have healthy relationships and enjoy positive mental health.

“The National Youth Health Programme and youth organisations are already doing fantastic work in engaging with young people in relation to their health and wellbeing. Over the next 5 years this Strategy will further strengthen and enhance this work."

The strategy, which will focus on mental health, physical activity and understanding the links between young people and porn, was shaped on the findings published in three reports carried out by NYCI.

In a study on the mental health of young people in 2015, the main issues identified were anxiety, stress and issues surrounding body image.

A separate report on physical activity in the youth sector last year found that 60pc of youth workers stated that certain groups, such as teenage girls and vulnerable young people, are "extremely difficult to engage in physical activity".

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