Young people are accessing pornographic material online and then feeling pressurised to mimic what they see in relationships, it has been warned.
Education workers from Nexus, which works with victims of sexual abuse, have uncovered worrying levels of child sexual exploitation during education visits to secondary schools.
Helena Bracken, Nexus Operations Manager, told the Journal: “There are youngsters that do not realise they are being exploited. We have a highly sexualised society now and on a phone they can access any type of inappropriate material, even severe porn. Their first experience of sex can be very, very disturbing.
“What we are seeing is that a lot of young girls and guys are watching this extreme pornography and feeling that is the way they should be in their real life. It is a real misconception, and the online world is spilling over into real world.”
Ms. Bracken said that this was having a knock-on effect on self-esteem and warping people’s views of how they should look and act.
“They don’t realise this is exploitation and that they are in relationships that are far from healthy. We are seeing a lot more of that. I would say there is a tidal wave coming.
“There are a lot of fantastic things on the internet and it is a great resource but there is a very dark side to it as well, and people need to be aware of it. ”
Nexus have also now applied for funding to try and reach children at an earlier age in primary schools.