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Young people sometimes ask us questions about pornography and the law. This page has a list of the most common questions we get in this area.
Answer: In most circumstances, it is not illegal for someone who is under 18 to view porn on the internet. While videos that show people having sex are technically legally 'prohibited' online (which means that the Australian Communications and Media Authority can request that they are removed), it is generally not against the law to look at these videos for personal use.
1. Ratings and internet pornThe Australian Classification Board (ACB) is a government agency that classifies films, computer games, publications and internet content into categories (like MA15+, X18+, RC). 'Porn' usually refers to videos that show people having sex.
Videos that show consenting adults having sex (without offensive violence, fetishes, or abuse) are usually classed as X18+. Videos that show violent, cruel or otherwise offensive adult sex, sex with minors or sex with animals are refused classification (RC).
Both X18+ and RC videos are technically 'prohibited'. Prohibited content is defined by law as online content that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) must take action about if it's reported to ensure, among other things, that it is not hosted or made available in Australia.
However, it is generally not against the law for a person to access and view X18+ or RC videos online, if they are by themselves in private. And while most people and the ACB would consider this material inappropriate for young people, it is not generally illegal for someone under 18 to view porn.
The most important exception to this rule is child pornography, which is against the law and has serious penalties.
2. What is child pornography?
Child pornography, because of its harm to children, has its own set of rules. Child pornography is defined as a photo, video or other image that shows someone under 18 engaging in sexual activity or depicted in an indecent sexual manner or context (including nudity). This includes people who look as though they are under 18. This also includes animations and cartoons of people who appear to be under 18. It is against the law to ask for, make, send or have child pornography - even if it's just a picture of you or someone you know. For more information, see our Lawstuff page on Sexting,
3. Other laws and school policies on pornographyThere are also laws against:
4. People you can talk to about pornography use
*If you are worried that you are watching too much porn and are curious about whether watching porn is healthy or unhealthy we encourage you to read the following article by Reach Out: http://au.reachout.com/q-i-watch-porn
You can also check out these videos on how pornography affects the brain:
If you'd like some information on the influence of pornography on young people, and the uses of pornography that are healthy and potentially unhealthy, you can have a look at the upcoming resource http://www.itstimewetalked.com/.
My boyfriend or girlfriend keeps asking me to try something that they’ve seen in porn but I don’t want to – what can I do?
Answer: You never have to do anything sexual that you don’t feel comfortable with. It’s important to discuss these things with your partner so they know what your boundaries are. It’s against the law to have sex with another person without their consent. Please have a look at our pages on Sexual Assault or Sex for more information. Or you can send us a Lawmail.
Answer: *If you want to talk to a professional counsellor, you can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. They offer free and confidential counselling 24/7 to young people aged 5-25 on anything they want to talk about. They also offer online chat counselling, available at http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/.
Delete it from your phone/tablet/computer soon as possible. You can also report the website to the ACMA http://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Internet/Internet-content/Internet-content-complaints/acma-hotline-frequently-asked-questions#6
Page last updated 21 June 2015.
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