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."

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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 433.

    The thing to remember about the Internet these days is that it is used extensively as a marketing tool. When something is free, remember that as you are not the customer you may well be the product. This applies equally to free pornography and Facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    I think this problem will actually get less as many devices are moving away from having unrestricted internet access. If kids have a smartphone that only has certain apps on it instead of an actual browser then the ability to get to the really nasty, harmful stuff is much reduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    @392. MrFunkyG
    I think you should calm down.
    First not everyone involved in porn or prostitution is scum, some are just earning a living using an asset that pays a good wage.
    As to being a prostitute - do you work? If so then effectively you are selling your body&mind - what really is the difference? Just the sex. Sex is natural and normal. Even violence is natural and normal. Both are ancient

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    How are small children expected to read the complex "over 18" warnings on many websites? A universal "no kids here" symbol, maybe a cartoon character, would be much easier for small children to understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Utterly ridiculous moral conservatism at it's worst. Children need to be warned of the dangers of knives, getting into cars with strangers etc, etc. If stumbling across internet porn was the worst issue then our children would be living in a wonderfully safe world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    I remembered as a child of the 1960s, where sex was never mention in our household, just finding out from my own peers.

    Thinking about it, if a child is brought up on a farm.....they will see a lot of porn by the time they reach five !!!!! So what is the problem ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Adults that need porn as a masturbatory stimulation should be allowed access to these sites by subscription only. Searches for "teen porn" have jumped by 215% in the past 8 years and women are often portrayed as enjoying all kinds of vile, unnatural, violent & degrading sexual interaction with men, this is well documented. I also suspect that crime Lords and porn Barons are often one & the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I'm actually confised as to why so many think this is about schools teaching kids about pornography.
    I've read and re-read the article several times & see: "this was not about showing pornography in class";
    "If they see something that shouldn't be there, they should know to go and tell an adult" and
    "young people need to know how to cope with and avoid these distorted views of relationships"

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    You can quite easily restrict what is available and when on all devices in your home. The argument that parents can't control what their kids see does not stand up. The real problem is parents allowing their kids to use devices and computers and not caring what they see and do with them.

    Don't educate the kids, educate the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    392. MrFunkyG
    "I am going to ensure that I teach mine that anyone involved in this industry is disgusting and in my opinion sub-human!!!!!"

    The whole problem is people view those involved as sub human so abusive and degrading actions become seen as normal, which then affects peoples views on real life relationships.
    So thanks for encouraging that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Funny how we're very uptight about porn, which most respondents here seem to think is pretty harmless, but we don't make a huge fuss over violence - which, to me, is far more damaging.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    417.Ron Taylor
    I agree Ron, thats why I was shocked to have to discuss Porn with my 10 year old as her friends computer was not protected so she viewed it there. Once we had a frank conversation about it she was fine, she's now 15 and is a normal well adjusted girl.

    We can't change the proliferation of sex in society Parents need to work with what we've got, education is key.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Back in the 80's my mum stumbled in on me and some school mates watching a VHS porn video that I'd obtained from a friend. To her credit, all she said was "Just be aware that in real life sex isn't usually like that" and left us to it.

    Really, that is what this should be about. Letting young people know that what they see on their screens is not necessarily representative of a typical sex life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    To those who are suggesting blocking software, stop. It doesn't work.

    You are challenging children and they will accept the challenge. It only takes one to break it and share the knowledge. Sharing knowledge is what we do on the internet.

    Besides, bluetoothing, swapping DVDs and all other 'sneaker net' methods are not stopped by your misguided faith in blocking software.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    carl 99 we did the same in our day when porn was health and efficiency

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Nothing wrong with porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Parents need to learn how to use the the restriction software on their computers, browsers, phones and create a password. It is not rocket science.


  • Comment number 416.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.


    I think it is important that kids are made aware that most porn is not a representation of typical a sex life, it is a fictional film you are watching.


    This is not necessarily true of "amateur" as opposed to "sex industry" porn, which is a lot of what you find on the net. This features people who enjoy filming their own sex lives and uploading them to the net.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    I couldn't help focusing on 'turned up some explicit images when researching the North Pole on the internet.'
    Entering 'North Pole' returns 106,000,000 results, of which the first 20 pages yields no pornographic material whatsoever - after that I lost interest. So this youngster was trying his best to find some pornographic material!


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