Posted on 28 November 2013 by Henry
Young people's experience of pornography is a hot topic at the moment, and people tend to have some pretty strong views about it. Many young people think it's potentially harmful, but they also feel this way about violent and horrific content.
In a recent survey, we asked 16-18 year-olds to indicate which types of content could be harmful to people their age, and violence topped the list:
Then we asked them whether this content should be age-restricted, and what age restriction should apply. The graph shows that they were firmly in favour of a high age restriction for these types of violent content:
In group discussions we found that young women are particularly concerned about depictions of sexual violence. Some potential harms they identified are: reliving trauma (for victims of sexual violence), being upset or shocked, and becoming fearful of contact with men. Young men were also concerned about depictions of sexual violence - one of them put it this way:
I think there're two ways to look at it. There's the one where people have been sexually assaulted, so they'll feel uncomfortable watching it because it'll bring back those dark memories... or, there's the people who almost get off on it, they get that excitement, buzz - maybe we shouldn't be feeding that. (p45)
Discussion group participants also thought that depictions of self-harm or suicide were potentially very harmful for people their own age, for people younger than them, and for society as a whole. One said that:
Suicide and self-harm are some of the most harmful things that people around my age can see. I feel that children are so strongly influenced by what the media displays to them and this can lead people to act in the same way. (p46)
Our literature review (p9) found that the way violent or horrific content is perceived and understood can lessen or heighten its impact. For example, a gory horror film is more likely to frighten young children than adolescents, while other more 'adult' content may have little impact on children and young adolescents who don't fully understand the disturbing nature of what they are seeing.
How and why young people watch violent films is also interesting. For example, gender differences were explored in the research Viewing Violence. For 14-17 year-old males, a common reason for watching horror films was to show how 'hard' they were to their friends; whereas females were likely to embrace the feeling of being scared, to express their fear, and to comfort each other. Young people were unlikely to watch these films alone.
Many young people find violent, horrific or frightening content distressing and potentially harmful to themselves and those younger than them. If you're interested in finding out more about this you can take a look at our new research. If you have any questions or comments about violent content we'd love to hear from you, so get in touch via email, phone, Facebook or Twitter.
To comment as a guest without having to login, click inside the comment field below. This will reveal a field labelled "Name". Click in the "Name" field to reveal the "I'd rather post as a guest" checkbox. Tick this checkbox and then fill in your name and email address. You can use a nickname if you don't want to use your real name. Happy commenting!