Consumption of sexually explicit internet material and its effects on minors' health: latest evidence from the literature

Minerva Pediatr (Torino). 2022 Jun;74(3):332-339. doi: 10.23736/S2724-5276.19.05367-2. Epub 2019 Feb 13.


Introduction: Nowadays adolescents and children are more and more exposed to sexually explicit internet material (SEIM), but most parents and healthcare professionals neglect this issue. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the impact of online pornography on minors' health with a specific focus on the effects produced on their behavioural, psychophysical and social development.

Evidence acquisition: A literature search was performed on PubMed and ScienceDirect in March 2018 with the query "(pornography OR sexually explicit internet material) AND (adolescent OR child OR young) AND (impact OR behaviour OR health)." Results published between 2013 and 2018 were analysed and compared with previous evidence.

Evidence synthesis: According to selected studies (N.=19), an association between consumption of online pornography and several behavioral, psychophysical and social outcomes - earlier sexual debut, engaging with multiple and/or occasional partners, emulating risky sexual behaviors, assimilating distorted gender roles, dysfunctional body perception, aggressiveness, anxious or depressive symptoms, compulsive pornography use - is confirmed.

Conclusions: The impact of online pornography on minors' health appears to be relevant. The issue can no longer be neglected and must be targeted by global and multidisciplinary interventions. Empowering parents, teachers and healthcare professionals by means of educational programs targeting this issue will allow them to assist minors in developing critical thinking skills about pornography, decreasing its use and obtaining an affective and sex education that is more suitable for their developmental needs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Erotica / psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Minors*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior* / psychology