Warn young children about pornography, say heads

Girl with tablet The new generation of devices makes it harder for parents to know what their child is viewing online

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Young children should hear about the dangers of pornography as soon as they have access to the internet, leading head teachers say.

The ready availability of explicit material online has prompted serious concerns from the National Association of Head Teachers.

General secretary Russell Hobby said "the conversation should start" when children started going online.

But he stressed this was not about showing pornography in class.

He told reporters at his association's annual conference in Birmingham: "There isn't an easy answer, but as soon as children are getting access to this, it's time to begin the conversation."

Stephen Watkins, head teacher of Millfield School in Leeds, said: "Children as young as three - nursery age children - access computers. If they see something that shouldn't be there, they should know to go and tell an adult."

Start Quote

Young people need to know how to cope with and avoid these distorted views of relationships.”

End Quote Russell Hobby NAHT

He recalled having to respond to a boy in class who had turned up some explicit images when researching the North Pole on the internet. And he said an approach which responded to issues when they arose in a low-key way was the option he favoured.

Mr Watkins added that many parents were concerned about the easy access of such material on other people's portable devices and smart phones, which they could not block in the same way as their home computers.

He also warned that parents were setting up under-age Facebook accounts for their children which potentially left them able to access inappropriate material. Youngsters under the age of 14 are not permitted to have their own accounts.

He said of 33 children aged ten and 11 in his own school's top year, he had discovered 24 were already on Facebook.

Mr Watkins said he had written to their parents to warn them they were going against the social network's own rules and that they were potentially exposing their children to inappropriate material.


An independent survey of 1,009 parents for the NAHT suggested 83% felt pupils should learn about the dangers of pornography in sex education lessons.

Four out of 10 thought this should happen in the early primary school years, while 51% believed it was more appropriate to tackle the subject in the teenage years.

The NAHT said it had no official figures on the number of children accessing pornography, but an event would be held later this year "to get agencies working together on these issues and to pool data".

According to internet security firm Bitdefender, a survey of 19,000 parents worldwide suggested 1.16% of children had accessed pornography by the age of six.

The NAHT said the issue was increasingly troubling to teachers and heads as they grapple with the impact of pornography on pupils' self-image and their perceptions of sexuality.

Mr Hobby said his association had been working with a number of agencies for some time to address these concerns.

He added that his association had said repeatedly that young people must be protected from pornography, and children should receive appropriate guidance as part of relationship and sex education.

"We would also like to see improved advice for schools to help them manage these issues most effectively.

"There is no place for explicit materials in the classroom or school, even in the course of teaching about their dangers, but many young people are exposed to such materials on the internet and phones.

"In the face of this, young people need to know how to cope with and avoid these distorted views of relationships."

The vast majority of parents, 83%, had confidence in schools' ability to help their children understand the issues, the NAHT survey suggested, while 13% felt the subject should be left to parents alone.

Nine out of 10 felt all equipment allowing internet access should have a default block on pornographic websites.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Shall we just wrap our kids up in cotton wool?? Kids have always looked at porn. Everyone was doing it at my primary school 30 years ago. Yes, you have to be wary doing an internet search- but looking at porn is not harmful. The victorian attitude towards nudity however is. I want my kids to be well rounded individuals and violence, sex, porn, and whatever else is a fact of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    I can not stand porn or anyone connected to it- they are absolute SCUM!!! They are basically prostitutes in that they are being paid to have sex - vile, vile people!!!
    Now we have to explain to our kids about something they should not need to know about at their age. I am going to ensure that I teach mine that anyone involved in this industry is disgusting and in my opinion sub-human!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    I can't remember how old I was when I was first interested, I just know it was very young. I wish there'd been the internet at that time - then I wouldn't have had to ask friends to find their older brother's 'stash' nor look at the underwear section of the Kays or whatever it was catalogue that was renewed every three months :o)

  • Comment number 390.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    What exactly are internet providers doing about this? It's astonishing - and even criminal - that Google, Yahoo and others still allow porn sites, dubious chat rooms, not forgetting bomb-making pages to be ludicrously accessible to not only children, but the unstable, the feckless and the fanatic. There must be a way to delete or police such sites. It is THEIR responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Of course children should be warned about the dangers of the internet - not just porn either. It beggars belief how many parents allow unfiltered and unsupervised access to the internet.

    You might as well put posters of them in phoneboxes with their mobile numbers on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    To 362. There is absolutely no need for children to have their own computers as they can learn on school and home computers and even less need for children to have smart phones. If they need to be contactable then a simple phone is all that is required. Parental indulgence and peer pressure are the cause of this avoidable problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Children should have a childhood, they don't need to know everything.

    No child should have any access to this type of material. Surely a parent has a duty of care to ensure that computers used by thier kids are properly restricted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Basic sex ed: parental responsibility? Aids publicity when sons were 4 & 7 was awkward: they weren't ready to understand. By 12 it made sense to them. Kids in same year group won't always be ready in same week. Discussion in mixed teenage class was most valuable in understanding feelings rather than just sensations. Can't guess where porn fits in timeline. In some families 10 is too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    This field of behavioural and developmental education has just been broadened and seriously advanced into legal jurisdiction.

    US mental health 'bible' DSM-5 updated ~ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22570857

    These matters must broaden into the Human Rights jurisdiction before science and poor medical and personal 'opinion' arbitrate sanity

    Watching TV is an illness if excessive internet use is

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    If young children can easily access porn, perhaps we should be teaching parents how to activate filters to block adult material. This would prevent most of it reaching the screens of the young and it is so easy to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    What I find remarkable about this article is that there is no mention of Parental Control software which is readily available from many vendors. It's not perfect but it does help a lot. Mobile phones for children is OK in terms of tracking and safety, so long as guardians know what's on it and these too can be restricted in use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    There needs to be stricter controls on accessing internet porn but teaching about it in schools will just attract curiosity.

    Sometimes I wonder about the common sense of some of these so called educational experts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    @346 "Warnings do not work with today's children... they have minds of their own and refuse to take advice!"
    Because children of past generations always did as they were told.

    Other than that it is interesting how eager people are to make claim of "most" and "dangers" without any research or proof to back it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Goldengirl - the concept of "childhood" is a modern one. Until relatively recently in human history children have been "exposed" to the reality of grinding existence - 10 in a bed, lack of privacy and personal space between children and adults in families - Mr and Mrs Caveman were unable to ensure their children's innocence. Sex is part of life, like birth and death. Or breathing, for that matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    The trouble is that policy is sought based on the word 'pornography'. What it consists of should be recognised. Whilst criticism of it might be seen as the vestiges of religious moral stricture, possibly belonging to a bygone age, violence against women (or men) is a different dimension. What's the difference between 'pornography' and endless images of non-sexual violence - which are everywhere?

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    I'm 18 and I first watched porn at around 13 and personally it has had no effect. I was still terrified on my first time and to be honest I knew porn was just a unrealistic conception of sex, Although I have seen things on the internet what really have disturbed me, not porn. It's so easy to stumble upon violent videos that can really effect a kid. That's what parents should be more worried about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Though there is more porn these days than when I was a child (I'm 36), it's not porn education that the children need, but decent sex education. Besides, I'm sure kids realise that movies & TV isn't real life? Of course, why the parents are giving unsupervised access to porn on their computers is a different story.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    You see it all the time, young kids left alone with their own i-phone and i-pad. Remind me again. who's to blame for giving kids easy access?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    I am concerned that the media does not represent the intentions of teachers in a fair way, they want a headline and so there is no reasonable debate; Education wants to protect children from the dangers of Internet porn in the same way as they help support parents in teaching skills which will keep them safe from abuse etc. Some parents need more help than others, so schools take responsibility.


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