What is pornography like for today’s teenagers? This is the first generation to grow up in a world where smartphones and high-speed internet have always existed. According to recent studies, 95% of teens now have access to a portable X-rated theater—i.e. a smartphone.1 The rise of smartphones has correlated closely with increased porn consumption among younger generations. It’s easier to access than ever, with more variety, and more social acceptability.
In our research, we’ve examined some of the most important—and shocking—research on teens and porn.
Do teens watch porn?
It’s become increasingly normal for teens to watch porn. No matter how you slice it, teens watch a startling amount of porn. According to one study:
- Just 55% of adults 25 and older believe porn is wrong.
- Only 44% of porn users believe someone being depicted in a demeaning way is always wrong.
- Only 43% of teens believe porn is bad for society.
What teens consider to be pornographic has also changed drastically. For an increasing number of teens, sexual imagery—even graphic nudity—is not porn unless it depicts intercourse.
Interestingly, researchers also found that nearly half of teens (45%) feel addicted to their devices, and just over half (52%) have taken some steps to cut back or limit their use.2 Studies suggest that watching pornography is one of the most addicting things you can do on your devices. So then, we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that teens watch porn—lots of it.
New research conducted in 2022 also found that many teens are unintentionally exposed to porn. According to Common Sense Media, 58% of teens had stumbled across porn accidentally. Of that 58%, almost two thirds reported that they’d been exposed within the past week.3
What percent of teens watch porn?
Here are ten of the most alarming statistics about teens and pornography:
- 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
- 90% of teens and 96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral when they talk about porn with their friends.
- The first exposure to pornography among boys is 12 years old, on average.
- 83% of boys and 57% of girls are exposed to group sex online.
- 32% of boys and 18% of girls are exposed to bestiality online.
- 15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography online.
- 71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
- 28% of 16-17-year-olds have unintentionally been exposed to pornography online.
- 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext.
- 39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.
(Get all the references for these by downloading our complete packet of pornography statistics.)
Is porn bad for teens?
Some may question whether we should be alarmed about the number of teens using pornography. After all, isn’t it a relatively harmless way to explore their sexuality? No—porn is a harmful and unnatural way to learn about sex and may hinder real relationships from developing normally.
Many psychologists, even those who don’t have a moral axe to grind with porn, are concerned about the kind of sexual education porn is giving kids and how it is harming their brains. Furthermore, ample evidence shows that porn is bad for teens in many ways:
- Porn creates unrealistic expectations about sex.
- Porn trains misogynistic thinking.
- Porn desensitizes people to sexual violence.
- In some cases, porn can lead to sexual dysfunction.
(For more, see 4 Ways Porn Warps the Male Brain).
As parents, we have to prepare our kids for our sexualized culture and pornography specifically. If we don’t prepare them, who will?
1 Hermina Drah, “30 Surprising Cell Phone Addiction Statistics for 2022,” disturbmenot!, January 15, 2022. Accessed January 5, 2023 at https://disturbmenot.co/cell-phone-addiction-statistics/#:~:text=95%25%20of%20teens%20have%20access%20to%20a%20smartphone.&text=According%20to%20a%20Pew%20Research,by%20two%2Dthirds%20of%20parents.
3 James Steyer, “A Letter From Our Founder,” in Michael Robb and Supreet Mann, 2022 Teens and Pornography, (Common Sense Media, 2022).