A quarter of Kiwi teens have watched porn before the age of 12 - and most want restrictions on what can be accessed, a new report reveals.

Teenage pornography users are struggling with what could be considered "compulsive" viewing despite wanting to cut back.

The great majority of teens, including half of all regular viewers, want restrictions on access to porn as well.

The NZ Youth and Porn report, released today, says that some young people aged between 14 and 17 already feel reliant on pornography, despite often feeling troubled by what they view.


The Office of Film and Literature Classification's report was written from a survey of more than 2000 Kiwi teens in that age bracket.

"This survey has been an opportunity to get young people's experiences on the table – to give them a voice to tell us how and why they are viewing pornography," chief censor David Shanks said.

"We feel it is vital to put our young people front and centre in the debate around internet porn. Listening to what they have to say will give us the best chance to make a difference, and to help them."

The survey showed a quarter of teens have seen porn before the age of 12, usually by accident or by having it shown to them.

One 16-year-old girl said she stumbled across gay porn on Google while searching for pictures of bareback horse-riding.

The survey also revealed 72 per cent of teens who had viewed porn recently saw things that made them uncomfortable, and 42 per cent of regular viewers wanted to spend less time looking at porn, but found that hard to achieve.

Chief censor David Shanks releasing the NZ Youth and Porn report in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchel
Chief censor David Shanks releasing the NZ Youth and Porn report in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchel

The report said some people were struggling with levels of usage that could be considered "compulsive". Some teens reported feeling upset, sad, or unhappy while viewing porn.

A 16-year-old boy said he had a porn addiction and was trying to quit, but that he would "always relapse" due to curiosity or stress.


One 15-year-old, whose comments were published in the report, said some of the porn he had seen was "brutal and violent and degrading to the woman", which led young people to believe that is "how you treat a woman".

Shanks said there was debate around whether pornography could be clinically addictive, but that people were getting hung up on terminology.

"If people are wanting to do it less and they can't, then that's a problem we should address."

He said there were "very real connections" between this research and the recently released report into mental health in New Zealand.

"Strikingly, this research shows us that young people want restrictions around what they can watch and have access to. Their overwhelming consensus is that porn is not for kids."

Of those surveyed, 71 per cent of teens wanted more restrictions for kids and young people accessing porn.

One in 10 teens have become regular viewers by the time they are 14.

Almost three quarters of teens reported they'd seen non-consensual activity in the porn they'd watched.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said at a press conference she would be looking at what the Government could do with this information in terms of regulations.

"I'm going to be moving as quickly as I can," she said.

"This is not a Playboy under the bed anymore ... there is a bombardment into the devices of our young people."

The main issues raised by viewers included that porn was too easy to access, that it was informing their views about sex in a problematic way, and that it was a complicated issue that could sometimes be hard to manage.

Viewers were more likely to see a focus on men's pleasure and dominance of others, while also being more likely to see women being demeaned, subject to violence or aggression, and subject to non-consensual behaviour.

Most young people access porn on their smartphones – 65 per cent reported accessing it on a device, while 55 per cent said they used a computer, tablet, TV, or other device.

Only 8 per cent accessed it through a magazine or book.

They are also using porn as a learning tool, with over half of the respondents saying they use it as a way to learn about sex.

But one 16-year-old said girls sometimes felt they should be "acting like a 'slut' or a 'whore' because that's often in porn".

Martin said it showed that sex education in schools needed work, and that educators should be asking children what they needed and wanted to know.

Shanks said he was surprised at the willingness of teenagers who regularly used porn to admit they wanted restrictions on it. He was also surprised at the insight they showed into the effects of porn, and awareness of when they had an issue.

"That was kind of a very welcome surprise, because I think we can work with that."

Almost a quarter, at 24 per cent, believed nobody should be looking at porn, regardless of their age.

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Parent Guide: Challenging media – talking with young people about what they're watching