Skip to content
Evidence Base

The Roles of Individual Characteristics and Liberalism in Intentional and Unintentional Exposure to Online Sexual Material Among European Youth: A Multilevel Approach


Pornography Cross-country comparison EU Kids Online II Intentional/unintentional exposure Liberalism Online risk

Publication details

Year: 2014
DOI: 10.1007/s13178-013-0141-6
Issued: 2014
Language: English
Volume: 11
Issue: 2
Start Page: 104
End Page: 115
Authors: Ševčíková A.; Šerek J.; Barbovschi M.; Daneback K.
Type: Journal article
Journal: Sexuality Research and Social Policy
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Topics: Risks and harms; Internet usage, practices and engagement; Social mediation; Literacy and skills; Digital and socio-cultural environment; Content-related issues
Sample: This study draws on the survey data collected in the international research project EU Kids Online II (25 European countries, where approximately 1,000 children aged 9– 16 years were interviewed together with their parents in each participating country (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK). The pool of subjects who responded to questions about exposure to online sexual material consisted of European children aged 11–16 who use the internet (N = 18,709, boys = 50 %). The present study was based on 11,712 participants (girls = 50 %) who responded to all targeted questions.
Implications For Policy Makers About: Creating a safe environment for children online
Implications For Stakeholders About: Researchers


The aim of this study was to examine how young people are intentionally or unintentionally exposed to sexual material on the internet. A sample from the EU Kids Online II project, including youth (N = 11,712, 11–16 years, 50 % girls) from 25 countries, was used to examine predictors of unintentional exposure to online sexual material (EOSM) via pop-up images and intentional EOSM on adult/X-rated websites. Using a multilevel analysis, we considered several individuallevel predictors (psychosocial characteristics, patters of internet use, and parental mediation), one country-level predictor (mean cultural liberalism of the country), and cross-level interactions. Except for gender, the study did not identify any specific patterns of individual-level predictors for unintentional and intentional EOSM: age, sensation seeking, sexual intercourse, amount of time spent online, level of digital skills, and degree of restrictive mediation predicted both types of EOSM. Intentional EOSM was more often reported by boys, while unintentional EOSM occurred to a similar degree among boys and girls. Finally, living in a country with a stronger culture of liberalism predicted a greater likelihood of intentional but not unintentional EOSM and also was associated with smaller gender differences in intentional EOSM.


"With the exception of gender, similar individual characteristics, including patterns of internet use, were linked to both distinctive forms of exposure to online sexual material (EOSM). Predominately older youth, those who had had experience with sexual intercourse, those who scored higher on sensation seeking scale, who spent an increased amount of time online, and who had developed digital skills, were more likely to report both forms of EOSM. Restrictive parental mediation seemed to inhibit both intentional and unintentional EOSM. For unintentional EOSM, the effect of this mediation strategy remained stable across all the countries studied, but for intentional EOSM, variation across countries was observed. Living in countries with a stronger tendency toward liberalism is not associated with unintentional EOSM. On the other hand, this cultural context affects not only the prevalence of intentional EOSM, but also gender differences. The more liberal the country is, the less likely boys predominate over girls in intentionally accessing sexually explicit websites." (Ševčíková at al., 2014, pp. 113-114)

Related studies

All results