I got this news item through Care2.com. I thought it might interest some of you. The related links are:
(OFSTED report "Not Good Enough..." that contains the following text under item 56:
The Schools White Paper advocates comprehensive and inclusive sex education in the PSHE education curriculum.25 Although changes during puberty; reproduction; sexually transmitted infection; contraception; abortion and pregnancy were included in most secondary programmes, there was less emphasis on sexual consent and the influence of pornography. The failure to include discussion of pornography is concerning as research shows that children as young as nine are increasingly accessing pornographic internet sites, and Childline counsellors have confirmed an increase to more than 50 calls a month from teenagers upset by pornography.)
Should Schools Be Teaching Kids About Porn?
Children as young as nine should learn about pornography and how to view it, according to a recent report about personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in the U.K. Ofsted (the U.K. government body that inspects schools) says that primary school children must be taught not only about the “mechanics of reproduction” but also about safe sex, relationships, sexuality and, yes, pornography.
I can already hear the outrage and distaste were a proposal to teach pornography as part of sex education to quite young children be introduced in the U.S.!
Look a bit more closely at Ofsted’s rationale and, whether you think 9-year-olds should learn how to view pornography or not, it’s clear that the impetus is to better prepare students for the realities presented by the world today.
PSHE education currently focuses overly much on “teaching about friendships,” leaving them poorly prepared for puberty, says the report. “Children as young as nine are increasingly accessing pornographic internet sites,” Ofsted points out, and without sex education that acknowledges such, children could be at risk of being subjected to “sexual exploitation” or “inappropriate behavior.”
178 students who were interviewed for the report noted they are taught about abortion and contraception. But they also said they felt that sex education instruction “avoided discussing controversial topics such as sexual abuse, homosexuality and pornography.” The result is that the safety of children and teenagers is being compromised as they are not receiving help in protecting themselves “from unwanted physical or sexual contact or sexual exploitation.” Says Ofsted:
Lack of high-quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in more than a third of schools is a concern as it may leave children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. This is because they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go to for help.
As the Guardian points out, ChildLine counsellors say they are receiving more and more — around 50 — calls a month from “teenagers upset by pornography.” Simply shielding children from such websites and teaching them about “friendships and relationships” could have the unintended effect of endangering them.
Should Schools Be Responsible for Teaching Students about Pornography?
The call for training teachers to instruct students about the dangers of pornography comes from the U.K.’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers. The union has passed a resolution that “schools must ensure that pornography does not become seen as so normal that youngsters expect it to be part of everyday life.”
The U.K.’s Department for Education is indeed leaving it up to teachers to “the freedom to tailor their teaching so it meets the needs of their pupils’ as “the best people to fix this problem are teachers on the ground, not politicians in Westminster.”
As Elizabeth Schroeder, the executive director of Answer, a national sex-education organization based at Rutgers University, said to the New York Times in 2012: “Your child is going to look at porn at some point. It’s inevitable.” She also says that “if we flip out, freak out or go crazy about it, we’re giving a very set message,” one that leads children to feel they will be “judged or punished” if they ask about pornography. Other experts note that the most common mistake parents make about pornography on the Internet is “to wait to have the conversation until some incident precipitates it.”
Ofsted is taking a pro-active stance in calling for children to be taught about pornography. It goes without saying that the Internet has become a routine part of any students’ education; teachers are seeking a way to address the fact that, on the Internet’s “information highway,” students are just going to encounter inappropriate content. Instead of nervously shooing away or outright shielding children from a pornography site, the Ofsted report calls for instructing them about it and preparing them in advance.
Is this asking too much from teachers? Could such instruction backfire?
Or is Ofsted’s proposal a timely acknowledgement of what we need to prepare children for in the Internet age?