Pornography websites were accessed by at least 44,000 primary school children in one month, online research showed Friday, amid calls for greater restrictions on providers.
The Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) tracked the actions of children in Britain in December 2013 and found that one in 35 of six- to 11-year-olds online clicked onto an adult website.
Some 200,000 aged under 16 — one in 16 who went online — also accessed an adult website in the same month, while one in five teenage boys under 18 were clicking on porn, the online video regulator said.
One adult site, Pornhub, which allows users unrestricted access to thousands of hardcore porn videos free of charge attracted 112,000 of the teenagers.
Atvod is calling on the government to act urgently to protect children from adult material and introduce laws forcing pornography websites to carry out age checks before allowing access.
The watchdog said sites that do not comply should be blocked from processing payments from British customers.
Atvod chief executive Pete Johnson said: “Significant sums are flowing from UK customers to foreign websites which allow children to access hardcore porn. In 2013, The Times estimated the sum could be £180 million a year.
“Cutting off that flow of funds to services which allow children to view hardcore porn would provide a powerful incentive for porn websites to put in place effective age verification and access control mechanisms in order to restart the flow of funds from the UK.”
The findings come the week after a group of MPs urged the government to do more to tackle under-age exposure to online porn.
Atvod already forces pornographic websites based in Britain to conduct age checks before users can view explicit photographs or video, by demanding credit card details or verifiable personal information.
But the regulator says the majority of online pornography is downloaded from businesses based overseas, which are beyond its control.
Atvod wants all adult sites to request a licence that would only be granted if age checks were in place.
The government recently acted to protect child Internet users by forcing service providers to block pornography unless a household opts in to receive it.
Responding to Atvod’s demands, a government spokesman said: “We will continue to work with industry and others to look at where further action could be taken, including around age restrictions.”