Parents and schools need to do more to combat the pervasive influence pornography has on young people, according to a visiting Australian expert.
Maree Crabbe, who studies the effects of cyber bullying, sexting and pornography, told hundreds of parents at a workshop at Otago Boys' High School auditorium last night that pornography was giving young people a "distorted view" of what was normal.
By far the majority of young people had been exposed to pornography online by the age of 16 and, increasingly, porn was becoming the main source of sex education, Ms Crabbe said.
"They are even creating it themselves, using the sorts of devices that young people have access to every day."
Worryingly, pornography was becoming increasingly aggressive and often included degrading and violent acts against women.
This was changing many young people's attitudes and expectations towards sex and giving people a "distorted view" of what was normal.
"It's a pretty disturbing model of normal."
There was also evidence pornography consumption was linked with violence against women.
To combat its influence, schools and parents needed to talk to their children about pornography, even if it was "awkward".
This meant teaching young people about the importance of respect and consent and limiting access to it.
"We won't be able to stop young people seeing porn full stop, but we probably can stop them watching two or three hours a night."
While it might be "tough to talk about", the evidence was clear that pornography's influence had become a critical issue, as devices such as smartphones made it easier to access.
A study of 13 to 16-year-old Australians found 93 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls had been exposed to pornography online.
Another study from Sweden found 10 per cent of 16-year-old boys were accessing pornography every day or more and 63 per cent every week or more.
Doing nothing about it risked significant consequences.
"We might prefer that this issue goes away ... but it's not going to, it's here and it's here to stay and to fail to address it with young people is to risk leaving too much of their sexuality education up to [pornographers]."