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Does viewing porn encourage violence in teens?

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The Daily Mail last week begun a campaign to automatically block porn through Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Under the scheme, users would have to opt in in order to be able to view adult material on the net.

The campaign is prompted by comments made by head of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC. Mr Starmer said: "I have been concerned about the exposure of young people to all sorts of material. The emerging research tends to support that there is a lot of abuse within teenage relationships.”

Figures show that teenage girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are most at risk of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence, with those aged between 20 and 24 at only minimally lower risk.

The Daily Mail claims that these statistics are linked to the availability of online pornography and that not enough is being done to prevent young people from accessing it.

Jon Brown of the NSPCC said: “Some of the most vulnerable children and young people are now getting access to hard core pornography.

"We have serious concerns about children accessing this online as it gives them an unrealistic and sometimes dangerous view of sexual relations.”

In R v Butler (1992) the Canadian Supreme Court acknowledged that a link between violent behaviour and watching pornography may exist.

More recently, the case of a 14-year-old boy charged with the sexual assault of a four-year-old girl at Cambridge crown court has been brought into the debate. The judge presiding over the case handed down a non-custodial sentence, blaming 'the world and society' for his exposure to porn.

However, a 2009 report by the NSPCC found that the most significant factors in partner exploitation, including violence, in young relationships were child maltreatment, domestic violence in the family and aggressive peer networks.

The research also found that for girls, having a much older partner was associated with physical, emotional and sexual violence.

Civil liberties campaigners have condemned the campaign, saying that it would effectively involve creating a registry of porn-users and using the 'slippery slope' argument – that if the government is allowed to place restrictions on this, it might lead to more serious civil liberties infringements.

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