“Of all activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to become addictive,”
- Dutch neuroscientists Meerkerk et al. 2006

Pornography use over time is a major cause of mental health disorders, arousal dysfunction and brain impairment.

TFR logo The Reward Foundation

The Reward Foundation is a pioneering relationship and sex education charity. The name comes from the 'reward system' of the brain, the part responsible for motivating behaviour. It drives our desire for love, sex, food, novelty and success. But the reward system can be hijacked and diverted by artificially strong rewards such as drugs, alcohol, nicotine and the internet. These substances and activities can shrink the grey matter in the brain eliminating vital connections. When this happens it affects brain development and our ability to make good decisions. 

Internet pornography is a super-normal or "industrial strength" stimulus. It's nothing like porn of the past. As with cocaine and heroin use, it can lead to compulsive or addictive use when binged upon regularly. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to its effects. They are also the most motivated to use it. Porn can poison relationships.

The Reward Foundation is a key source of evidence-based information about love relationships and the impact of internet pornography on mental and physical health, relationships, learning and legal risks.

We do not offer therapy nor provide legal advice.  However, we do signpost routes to recovery for people whose porn use has become problematic. Our aim is to help users, parents, professionals and politicians to access the evidence and support they need to take appropriate action.


Download our free lesson plans  on sexting and on internet pornography
at this website and at the Times Educational Supplement.

Age Verification Legislation for Websites and Apps containing Porn

Children make up 20-30% of users on adult Internet pornography sites. This alone should drive governments to implement age verification legislation to restrict access by children to protect their mental and physical health, and social development. Their health and privacy are affected by the absence of rules to protect them.


Years or younger*

Age that 60% of children first see porn



# UK children a month watching pornography



Parents wanting age verification on porn websites


Years old*

Age of some children exposed to hardcore pornography

* British Board of Film Classification

Photography thanks to Christopher Ivanov, Annie Spratt, Matheus, Farias and Nik Shuliahin via unsplash.com