Chairwoman of the Family Therapy Association of Ireland Trish Murphy said technology now means young boys can access pornography while doing everyday things such as their homework.
“The average age of accessing porn is 11 and probably nine, 10 for boys,” said Ms Murphy.
“Five or six years ago, it was very taboo but we’re getting more comfortable in being able to talk about it. Parents are still shocked at how young this can happen.
“It happens in the living room or in the kitchen while doing homework. This is not secret or hidden in their bedroom and the difficulties they experience is that they have nobody to talk to.
“It is happening pre-puberty and it can be very confusing. They can be at home on the computer and something flashes up and they click on it or simply type in something like ‘boobs’ and up comes a really shocking image.”
A TV investigation carried out by counselling psychologist Deborah Mulvany also revealed that studies show Ireland is on par with the rest of Europe when it comes to enjoying pornography.
The cutting-edge behavioural tests, carried out by behavioural psychologist Bryan Roche, which measure unconscious attitudes, also show Irish women are enjoying pornography to a similar extent to their male counterparts.
“These are attitude tests. It’s a technique that allows you find out someone’s attitude to something without them knowing that you are doing it or being able to stop you or being able to lie,” said Dr Mulvany.
“What they are revealing is very surprising to us, which is that the Irish are about equivalent to the rest of Europe in terms of their fondness for pornography and not in terms of their aversion.
“Even more surprising is that the difference is identical across males and females.”
However, the professor at NUI Maynooth also said young people are struggling to cope with the tsunami of sexual images in day-to-day life.
“The problem with the internet is it is absolutely instantaneous and now, with the advent of WiFi in everybody’s phone and in public places and with phones in their pocket that have internet access, it means you don’t have to wait.
“We now have the free-for-all that the culture is maybe not ready for. It could be described as a tsunami.
“There is constant round-the-clock private access to any type of material with no restriction and a generational gap that means the parents of the kids who have this access have no idea how to control it, let alone understand the emotions involved in it.
“That moves the relationship with pornography into a more problematic level and basically raises the risk somewhat because it harbours and facilitates almost compulsive behaviour with no downside.”
The documentary reveals many young people are struggling with problems relating to intimacy and sex that are dramatically different from previous generations because of the readily available graphic sexual imagery.
Youth engagement officer with Spunout, John Buckley, said he is seeing the negative effects of pornography on young people,.
“The positive effect is it is getting people talking about sex.
“The negative side is it might encourage behaviours that aren’t appropriate, that aren’t respectful and things that we don’t actually want to do but we feel we have to do.”
* Generation Sex will be shown on RTÉ Two tonight at 9.30pm.