The Internet is an almost inexhaustible source of pornographic material. "Was the Internet made for porn?" is how cultural critics put it. In the 1980s, it was still necessary to go to great lengths to find videos or magazines, the acquisition of which posed problems for young people. Today, an Internet connection is all that is needed to anonymously consume hardcore pornography, because much pornographic content can be found on the Internet for free and without access restrictions. In addition, the abundance and range of pornography shown is greater. "Sado-maso" is just as easily retrievable as bestiality or acted rapes.

Children and young people also come into contact with hardcore pornography online. Their first confrontation with pornographic content is usually unintentional and involuntary, e.g., when they receive pornographic videos in chats or by chance in streaming portals. Many young people inform themselves anonymously on the Internet to satisfy their curiosity about sexuality. In the process, they also come across pornographic content. Parents and caregivers should not leave children and young people alone with these disturbing experiences and act responsibly. Show young people where they can find youth-friendly educational sites and counseling services on the Internet. To minimize the risk of unintentional confrontation, you can use youth protection programs. For safe use of search engines, you should activate the SafeSearch filter. Younger children should use age-appropriate children's search engines. Educate children and young people that distributing child, youth and animal pornography in chats is not a joke or a dare, but a criminal offense.

Enlightenment on the Internet

Regardless of the fact that the Internet is a rich source of pornography, Internet-based offerings can play a positive and complementary role in sex education. Young people's high affinity for the Internet is definitely helpful here. Without inhibitions, they can obtain information on explosive topics anonymously on the net (see counseling services). However, an undirected search via popular search engines does not lead to a serious answer in most cases. It is more likely that young people will come across content that makes them feel even more insecure and portrays sexuality in the pornographic light of merely using technology.

The gap between knowledge and action

Despite extensive knowledge about practical aspects of sexuality, knowledge about one's own body has not increased any more than the sexual activities of today's young people. Young people are more likely to have their first sexual intercourse later than in 2000.
The fear of an increasing sexualization of youth in the sense of a significant advance and increase in sexual experiences - triggered by the Internet - is therefore not confirmed. However, the discrepancy described seems to have the effect that young people are exposed to pressure to conform to media role models regarding sexuality and body images very early in puberty.

False and unsettling ideas are not corrected or put into perspective either in the peer group or in the media. This requires adults who can create a constructive approach to sexuality.

Parents and educators can...

  • Create spaces for young people to talk.
  • Support adolescents in building a positive self-concept.
  • Provide information, sources of education.
  • Point out boundaries.
  • Help break down taboos.

The influence of published images of beauty and slimness is fatal, and efforts to achieve a body that conforms to the norm are usually futile. Yet young people and adults primarily just want to be "normal" and feel secure in their bodies. Media productions serve as orientation. To ensure that behaviors and representations in the media are not adopted without reflection, young people should be given the opportunity to reflect on their own and staged body images. The desire for physical attractiveness ("Am I beautiful?") is closely linked to the search for social recognition ("Am I popular?"). Young people often test their impact and popularity through self-portrayals in online communities, especially through profile pictures and self-created photo albums. However, they are not always able to assess what reactions these images will trigger in the viewer, especially if they present themselves as particularly "sexy.

Pornography use by teenagers

According to the representative online survey "Youth, Internet and Pornography" from 2018, 46 percent of all respondents between the ages of 14 and 20 said they had already come into contact with pornographic material at some point. In the online survey "Experience of children and adolescents with sexting and porn" from 2023, it was 35 percent of young people between 11 and 17. In general, boys are much more likely to consume pornography than girls, all studies agree. Girls are more likely to show aversion to pornographic or erotic images, while boys are more likely to describe them as arousing. Interest in pornography is also linked to age.

Pornography creates sexual norms

The main problem with pornography is that young people adopt sexual norms that have little to do with reality. Pornographic films and images convey the image of an always potent man who is satisfied by an always willing woman. Adolescents can easily perceive themselves and their sexual practices as inadequate compared to what they see in porn. For example, they may see themselves under pressure to succeed.

In addition to a general pressure of expectations, however, the consumption of pornography can also have a very direct influence on one's own sexual behavior. For example, anal intercourse, which is often seen in porn, is now a well-known sexual technique for young people, whereas decades ago it was almost unknown or taboo. The omnipresence of certain sexual practices in popular Internet porn portals can easily make young people insecure about their own sexual behavior.

Consulting services and further information

Below you will find links to counseling services on the subject of sexuality, sexual education and more.

  • Online counseling from pro familia
  • - Information service of the Federal Center for Health Education
  • Youth portal of the Federal Center for Health Education
  • Teachers' portal of the Federal Center for Health Education
  • telephone counseling service for children, young people and parents
  • Love, sexuality and relationships are the topics answered by "Dr. Sommer".
  • Contact and information center against sexual abuse of girls and boys

Tips for educational professionals

For example, you can use our self-exploration sheet for educational professionals (from page 9) in the teaching material "Let's talk about porn" before you get into the topic with young people.

Parents must be involved in an educational project on the topic of pornography. The motivation and methodology should be presented at a parents' evening in order to sensitize parents to the importance of the topic.

Look at pornographic sites on the net, even if you are reluctant to do so. Go to sites like YouPorn - to see what the young people see. Only if you have the same level of knowledge as the young people can you "have your say."
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Materials and content included in lessons must be selected and reflected upon with regard to aspects of youth protection. According to Section 184 of the Criminal Code, it is forbidden to make pornographic material accessible to young people under the age of 18. This also includes the use of pornographic material in school.

Young people feel the need to talk about sexuality. In doing so, it is important not to offend them. One way to help is to address them indirectly, for example:  "Why do you think people use pornography?".

There is a significant gender difference in the consumption, function and assessment of sexualized media content. It is therefore advisable to work with gender-separated groups. At best, a male colleague works with the boys, a female colleague with the girls.