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 453.

    Moneydude - If my sex life was as boring as yours sounds, I'd be asking myself some searching questions.

    Porn has, if anything, normalised attitudes towards a whole range of activities once branded as 'deviant', that now sit in the 'bloody good fun' category' for a lot of people.

    God bless porn, and all who sail in her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    I keep hearing about 'normal', 'healthy' sex. Who is to define what this is? It may scare some people to know that other men and women enjoy things they don't consider normal. Teenagers will develop ideas of what they want from sex with or without pornography, it is not the right of puritans to dictate what is 'normal'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Why are the moral guardians so obsessed with sex?

    Saw worse things on the net when I was younger. Brother showed me a site filled with high rise suicide and some guy shovelling a face off the pavement. That gave me nightmares.

    but to sum things up.

    Graphic violence: Okay
    Telling kids they'll be tortured forever for not accepting Christ: Okay
    Nipple on a woman's breast: DESTROYER OF YOUNG MINDS

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Since man learnt to record text and images, there have been "explicit" writing/images. The 20th Century technology advances have now made it more widely available. Children habe been giggling over "rude" pictures/films/books has been going on since the beginning of time....its only the medium that has changed

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    I never truly understood this, I was able to access porn when I was 14/15 (1998). I was honestly bored of it by the time I was 16 as it wasn't realistic, While I do admire more artistic images to protray natural beauty of the human body (such as a woman laying naked in a field of blue bells). It's natural curiosity.

    Parents should monitor & educate their children better, shouldn't be teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    I just do not believe all this nonsense. DO NOT GIVE A CHILD ACCESS TO THE INTERNET unsupevised. If your 15 year old is accessing pornography on a phone TAKE THE PHONE OFF THEM.

    A five year old has absolutely no concept of pornography. Why on earth would any sane person want to introduce it to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    The most help you could give the average teenage boy is help on where to find the decent porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    "much of which is made to a supposed male fantasy where the woman's pleasure is hardly important."

    I agree with the sentiment in a way - but if these distusting women did not allow themselves to be used by such awful men then it would not be a problem - no way women can be viewed as used here - they do it for the money!
    Porn is not real sex - it is awful and disgusting - real sex is great!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    When this topic comes up, I'm reminded of the "Hot Coffee" controversy about GTA: San Andreas. In the game you could plant car bombs, shoot pedestrians in the head and various other violent (but exceptionally fun) activities.
    It was then discovered you could hack the game to access a fully clothed dry humping minigame, and the US media went mental, demanding it be banned.
    Good ol' priorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Stephen Watkins, head teacher, should know this:

    Google now uses something called a filter bubble. It takes note of internet habbits and tailors your results. The first ten results for one person will not be the same for everyone else

    So, Stephen Watkins, if your search results for "north pole" are showing porn, Google thinks you want to see porn because of your previous internet habbits. ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    427. LdashD
    Searches for "teen porn" have jumped by 215% in the past 8 years
    Considering the exponential rise in searches over the last few years that means then relatively fewer people are looking for "teen porn"....

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    If you talk of porn as a danger, its waving a red flag to a bull. Anything you tell children not to do, creates the opposite reaction to what you intended.
    If children ONLY had internet access in a place in the house where adults are all the time, it offers more protection.
    Parents have to take responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    I recently investigated the causal link between pornography and harm for university. Research shows that sexually explicit materials are mostly harmless. Other themes, often intermixed with sex, were proven to cause the harm commonly associated with porn: there was consensus that violent films - even those without sexual themes - are far more harmful to the vulnerable. Food for thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    Some of the comments here refer to a "normal sex life" being different to that depicted in porn.

    I would add that a normal sex life is far less exciting and far more boring than any porno flick I have ever watched =)

    Sex is a very important and (can be) a very enjoyable act between participating adults. If it is bonded together with love then you are very lucky indeed.

    Kids will be kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    When I clicked the link on the home page marked "Pupils 'need early porn warnings'", I thought this was going to be a story about a silent alarm system in the IT lab that goes off when a teacher is about to enter the room, affording just enough time to switch browsing tabs.

    I think we should be encouraging young adults to get in to porn - it's about the only growth industry left. So to speak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Such warnings will fall on deaf ears and rightly so. Not because I support children accessing porn but because such warnings will generate curiosity. What does 'new generation devices' refer to? The author clearly missed the rise of mobile phones.

    Proper in-depth education is what is required, not a warning about porns dangers. Childrens perception of sex is already vastly different from reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    There's a bigger role for parents here, kids don't need smart phones and computers in their rooms. Parents control blocking and filters. I'm not sure it needs to be taught in class because raising subject will only make kids go and look for it out of curiosity. Kids are actually quite able to make up their own minds if and when they discover porn -that's what most of us did when we were young.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    The introduction of the internet and 24 hour multi-channel TV have dramatically increased the access of the public and kids to porn and internet gambling. In my view this is not healthy, especially for young children. The existing controls completely fail as children easily by-pass them. A parent may control a PC/mobile phone, but a friend’s parent may not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.


    "much of which is made to a supposed male fantasy where the woman's pleasure is hardly important."
    Oh please, cut with the poor female rubbish. A lot of the hard stuff is consenting women and women with women. Are you saying these women are not enjoying the situation they have asked to be placed in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    427 - "Searches for "teen porn" have jumped by 215% in the past 8 years" - from where did you pluck this juicy factoid? "women are often portrayed as enjoying all kinds of vile, unnatural, violent & degrading sexual interaction with men" - maybe they do enjoy it? Perhaps (whisper it) all those negative adjectives aren't the truth, just your rather old fashion opinion.


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