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 413.

    The real issue is how much technology should be in schools and how beneficial it really is to learning. We introduced the internet in 1996 at the institution I work in and i still feel we don't really have control despite corporate network type management. I imagine many schools have got no chance particularly with smartphones in every kids pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    I recall with amusement when I was 9 years old and my dad sat me down to tell me the facts of life. I told him I already knew and described to him in detail what happens. He went bright red with embarrassment. This was in 1980.

    I found out about sex by finding girlie magazines in the woods aged 8 years old. All in graphic detail.

    Porn is sex, and love has nothing to do with porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    There is a war going on to steal innocence. If you tell them about it they'll get curious and look at it. Tell them not to and they'll look at it more! Kids do that.

    Adults are obsessed with porn. So is the media. Just replying to this blog is feeding the porn obsession. Good bye.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    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. It seems that young people are growing up expecting sex to be as it is depicted in porn - much of which is made to a supposed male fantasy where the woman's pleasure is hardly important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Why are people confusing sex - which is great between two people - with porn which is dirty, disgusting, men and women making money from having sex for other people'e pervserse pleasure - this is why kids are growing up with a confused attitude towards sex -
    Anyone involved in this industry should be ashamed of themselves at the very very least - and I am no prude or religious type - just decent

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    401. This is the point you miss, in nature you dont have 9 monkeys on 1 female monkey. Ofcourse everything is the most natural thing in the world unless you dont find it in nature. You get me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    It has never done the Dutch or the Swedes any harm and they are very liberal towards such subjects even their cases of rape are much lower. It is the fact this country is far to stuck up and always have been, Restrictions are a recipe for curiosity and a child will find out one way or another. Total prudes in this country a nation of do gooders

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    @359. HandSignals
    The internet is not just for viewing sex, BUT, trying to censor it is just a bad place to be. First it is technically impossible to stop all porn all the time. Second, define porn - some religious groups won't even let a woman out without her hair covered. Third, you start with porn to protect children, before you know it you are banning news that doesn't fit your view

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Years ago I heard the prase "Would you let your child walk alone through Manhatten?" in relation to letting a child surf the internet alone. In those days the internet was far "safer" than it is now. Why would any parent allow their children use the internet alone and without suitable protection (Net Nanny, etc) in place to restrict their childs viewing...

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Pornography, violence, swearing - these things have been around since the human race started. The difference now is accessibility. Surly, the role of a parent is to provide a sound moral compass for their children to be able to deal with whatever the world throws at them; to be able to make their own judgements but, above all, understand what is "real" & consequences of their own actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    I do not believe in this at all, and certainly have not felt the need to have this talk with my son. For the last 5yrs the internet in my house has been heavily restricted, this includes all mobile devices such as Phones, Tablets, Games consoles, as well as the laptops. Its very easy to do, and free..

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    393.Stu - I'm not sure that people are saying that looking at any porn is a bad thing. But the nature of the porn that young people are viewing online is a concern. This is not a copy of Razzle we are talking about. It is the extreme side that children need protecting from and unfortunately it is this type of porn that is becoming predominant on the Internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    The NAHT needs to get together a decent sex education curriculum before they try to vilify porn. Pornography is part of adult sexuality and sex is the most natural and instinctive acts which the vast majority of life form take part in. The fact that sex is still constructed as "dirty" or "naughty" is so counter productive. To be human is to be sexual. It is about time that this was understood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Define "pornography" and then the debate can take place in earnest. What I define it as and what others do may well be different. Sex, for example, is not pronography and not all pornography is sex.
    Have fun developing the standards and definitions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

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

    Translation: Nine out of 10 do not understand the Internet or how it works and therefore think blocking a site achieves something,

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Well, i think if boys should have warnings about pornography, maybe girls should have warnings about unrealistic expectations caused by reading jain austin and watching chick flicks!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    There are a lot of comments on here saying it's the parents' responsibility and I agree; in an ideal world, it would be.The fact is, though, that some parents don't seem to care what their kids do and for those kids it's important that schools fill the gap. Porn is arguably less harmful to adults but if as a teen your view of what sex is, comes from online porn, you have a problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Sex education should not always be left to the parents, my parents, god bless them, told me nothing about sex at all, but I have struggled with the repression of sex that I learned from them. I am 54 now and I am kind of getting the hang of it. There is no easy answer, but yes children should be taught that practically any sex shown on the internet is not a true representation of the act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Why can't teachers just keep their mouths shut and do the job we pay them to do?
    Why does the BBC give time to every single thing the Luddite teaching unions have to say?

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    A bit like hiding the booze the more you hide the more they will want a taste


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