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NZ Youth and Porn

05 December 2018

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa
Let us keep close together, not far apart

We surveyed more than 2,000 New Zealanders aged 14-17 for the research project NZ Youth and Porn: Research findings of a survey on how and why young New Zealanders view online pornography. This page provides a summarised version of the key findings. 

Download the full report - NZ Youth and Porn (PDF, 6.6 MB)

Download the press release supporting the release of our report, NZ Youth and Porn (PDF, 573KB)

Slides from Chief Censor David Shanks' Sex and Consequences Seminar, 12 June 2019

Cover of our research report, NZ Youth and Porn

Our young people have spoken and they are self-aware that porn has an impact on them – whether that be positive, or negative, or both. This report makes a vital contribution to our understanding of this subject, and more importantly, puts our young people’s views at the forefront of potential change.

Chief Censor David Shanks

Porn is a fact of life for young New Zealanders

67%: More than two-thirds of NZ teens have seen porn (75% boys, 58% girls).
1 in 4 young NZers first saw porn before the age of 12. 71% were not seeking out pornography when they first saw it.
69% have seen violence or aggression. 72% have seen non-consensual activity.
15% see porn at least monthly (21% boys, 9% girls). 8% see porn weekly or daily (13% boys, 3% girls). 1 in 10 young NZers became a regular viewer by age 14.

Most young people in New Zealand have seen pornography. One in four young people first saw porn by the age of 12. Three out of four have seen it by 17. Most young people were not seeking out pornography when they first saw it, but they came across it anyway.

Some young people are viewing porn regularly (15% view porn at least monthly, weekly or daily). The majority of these young people started viewing porn regularly by age 14.

It’s common for young people to have seen violence, aggression and non-consensual activity. Young people were more likely to see a focus on men’s pleasure and dominance, while also more likely to see women being demeaned, subjected to violence or aggression, and non-consensual behaviour.

Young people are likely to see porn regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, however most young people have never talked about it with a parent or caregiver.

"For people my age, images and porn are kind of all we know what sex looks like. Lots of those inappropriate pics and vids pop up online even with spam blocks”

14-year-old girl

Two people hugging at a beach. They face towards the ocean, where someone is kayaking.

Sex isn’t such a big deal. Everyone is a sexual being

17-year-old girl

Porn influences the way young people think and act

73% of regular viewers see porn as a learning tool
1 in 5 recent viewers of porn have tried doing something they've seen
66% haven’t talked to a parent or caregiver about porn
89% of young people think that porn can influence people’s thoughts and behaviours (3% only positive, 37% only negative, 49% both positive and negative)

Most young people agree that porn can influence people’s behaviour and attitudes. More often in a negative way. Common themes were that porn promotes false expectations and unhealthy views about sex and relationships, and that it normalises violence and aggressive behaviour. However a majority of teens think that porn has some positive influences as well. For example its usefulness as a learning tool.Young people told us they use porn as a way of learning about sex. For some, porn is the primary way they learn about sex. One in five young people who have seen porn in the past six months say they’ve tried doing something they’ve seen in porn.

Most young people have received information about sex at school, but a third of them think the information was ‘not that useful’ or ‘not at all useful’, and only a minority said it was ‘very useful’. Young people want more and better information about sex.

Positive: It shows young people, who may not have received any decent sexual education, how the mechanics of sexual interaction happens. It also shows some people that their desires are not unnatural or immoral.

Negative: It sets a benchmark that is way too high for many young people, in terms of their performance. Males who can’t ‘bang away’ for hours, and girls who won’t take anal or accept cum on their faces, feel that they will fail to satisfy their partners, and so encourages depression and social withdrawal

17-year-old boy

A person surfing at the beach. A car and someone's back is visible in the foreground.

On a positive note, porn exposes you to different genres of sex and diversity within roles, but a negative is that people can get exposed to an unrealistic standard of sex, hyper masculinity or hyper femininity

17-year-old girl

Porn is complicated (and often troubling) for young people

Top 5 reasons young people look at porn: 1. 76% curiosity 2. 58% accidentally 3. 57% entertainment 4. 57% sexual arousal or pleasure 5. 56% boredom
Top 3 feelings when looking at porn: 1. 75% curious 2. 71% sexually aroused or turned on 3. 63% worried about being caught
72% of recent viewers saw things in porn that made them feel uncomfortable
42% of regular viewers would sometimes, or often, like to spend less time looking at porn but find this hard to do

Young people look at porn for a variety of reasons. It’s common for young people to look at porn out of curiosity or for sexual arousal or pleasure. But some also look at porn because they’re bored, or because they’re stressed or anxious. Some use it to help sleep, and others want to be ‘grossed out’. It’s not a simple picture – but the reality isn’t simple.

When they see porn, young people are most likely to feel curiosity, sexual arousal and worry about being caught. While young people are more likely to feel relaxed, happy or positive while looking at porn, some report feeling upset, sad or unhappy. Many young people have positive associations with porn – however the majority, including regular viewers, say they see things in porn that make them feel uncomfortable.

Some young people are struggling with their level of usage. Nearly half of regular viewers of porn would like to view it less often, but find this hard to do.

...By looking and learning it helps with the anxiety and a basic knowledge of what to do… Some porn is brutal and violent and degrading to the woman and it is this that I believe is the problem. As being young and seeing that, you are led to believe that is how you treat a woman, which in my eyes is wrong!

15-year-old boy

Two people sitting on the hood of a car. The image is cropped so only their lower backs are visible.

I think although it is inappropriate before I watched [porn] I didn’t really know how sex worked and I think it educates kids on what actually happens. It also assists with masturbation which can be a good stress release method. The negative impacts are that porn sex is usually fake and we expect too much when we actually have sex. Also some boys might not be able to orgasm without porn

14-year-old girl

Young people think there should be limits

89% of young NZers agree that porn should NOT be seen by children
71% of young NZers believe that children and teens’ access to online porn should be restricted. This includes half (51%) of regular viewers.

Young New Zealanders overwhelmingly agree that porn isn’t for kids. Around a third think it’s ok for people around their own age to look at porn, but around half say that porn is either for adults only or that it’s not ok for anyone to see it. In other words, a lot of young people (including regular viewers) think it’s not ok for people their own age to look at porn.

We asked young people if they thought children and teens’ access to online porn should be restricted in some way, for example by blocking or filtering content, or requiring proof of ID. The great majority – including half of all regular viewers – agreed that there should be some kind of restriction for people under 18.

I was searching Google for bareback horse riding pictures when was 12. It showed me gay porn. I didn’t know what it was, but Mum came in and explained. It made me think negatively about sex

16-year-old girl

The side of a car.

Where to next?

We’ve done the research, and young people have identified the issues:

  • Young people think porn is too easy to access
  • Porn is informing young people's views about sex, and they think this can be a problem
  • Porn is a complicated issue for young people, and they sometimes find it hard to manage

So how can we help young people?

This research provides an opportunity to take a collaborative approach, incorporating regulation, education, and tools and information for New Zealanders.

  • Regulation: Any technical or legal fixes are only ever going to be partial solutions – but regulation could provide some valuable protection for young people (especially children). We know that they are more likely to see porn for the first time by accident, rather than looking for it themselves. We also know that many young people support some kind of restriction.
  • Tools and information: Too many young people do not have the information, support and tools to process and understand pornography, to deal with the sometimes negative consequences of exposure, or to avoid this material in the first place. Parents could also do with some support in this area. Some great resources are already out there. There is an opportunity now to promote these, make them easy to find, and work on what else may be needed. 
  • Education: Young people tell us that they want more and better information on sex and sexuality. Education provides an opportunity for a vital counter-narrative to porn that could reach most young people. Whenever young people are learning about sex and relationships, porn education should form part of the discussion.
Two people hug each other at a beach on a car. There is a person kayaking, and another surfing in the background.

PHOTO: © Chris Traill Photography |

Useful Resources

Logo for the Light Project

The Light Project has information and resources to help youth and their whānau to navigate the new porn landscape in Aotearoa. If you are worried about your porn use, the Light Project have a helpful porn use self-check which you may find useful.

Family Planning

Family Planning provide a range of services including sexual and reproductive health information, clinical services, and education.

Youthline works with young people, their families and those supporting young people. The team are free to call on 0800 376 633.

It's Time We Talked

It’s Time We Talked is a website that is dedicated to an integrated porn education for young people.

Feeling anxious, down, depressed, or overwhelmed? You can talk to (or text) a trained counsellor through this free service.

Netsafe  works to help people in New Zealand by providing practical tools, support and advice for managing online challenges.

Outline are a confidential, free, LGBTIQ+ affirming support line and offer face-to-face counselling. Call them on 0800 6885463.

If you're interested in practical tools and parental locks, click here.

Let us know what you think

We'd love to hear what you think about this research. If you have any feedback you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact us by phone on 0508 236 767, or by email at


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