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 493.

    From the article above, Mr Hobby said "We would [also] like to see improved advice for schools to help them manage these issues most effectively."

    My reading of this article is about having advice available in schools when children ask questions or come across something that raises questions. In at least 2 places, it states there is no place for showing pron to kids in schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    Completely agree: the danger lies where teens watch porn and believe it represents real sex. The most crucial thing is to begin sex education early - and not just educating about the physical act, but about consent and a healthy attitude to sex. Rape culture is a massive problem, mainstream porn is violent and misogynous, and we have to make sure that teenagers do not grow up believing it's OK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Here's the warning: "It's everywhere. You can't escape it. It will find you."

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    "Porn is awful and dirty - but sex with someone you love is great - how is that confusing? Maybe you can not tell the difference between sex and porn!!!"

    This old nutmeg, sex and love are not the same thing. Sex with someone you love is arguably the best, but sex can still be great with someone you just find hot. As long as no one is being hurt, sex without love can also be great fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    Me thinks it's Head Teachers who have lost the plot - not the Education Secretary as Heads have recently stated, On one hand we have evidence that children's childhoods are being lost with ever increasing pre watershed coverage of violence, sex and rape on television and now Heads want primary children to be educated about pornography....because ICT starts in year 3!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    @ 4. Roger... your ignorance is simply amazing and we should seek to ban your voice on the internet altogether.
    (To find original comment, filter to lowest rated on the comments)

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    This is a problem that affects the whole of society, until we block illicit content it will be a problem that seriously damages generations of children and teenagers. Its naive to believe that teaching kids about the dangers will help, it wont. Its like asking them to go into the newsagent and not look at the magazines on the top shelf. A top shelf with explicit sex available anywhere, any time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    This is another attempt at a nanny state. Parents are responsible for raising their children, not the state. Stop taking away their responsibilities. This is the same logic that requires me to enter a pin on my sky box if I want to watch a film during the day - even though I have no children in the house! Madness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    At work our Internet access is limited by firewalls and proxy servers - so undesirable content like pornography is inaccessible.

    If companies can protect their employees from undesirable web content why can't parents do the same for their children.

    ISPs should do more to make content filtering technology available to parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    Do the liberal intelligensia never learn from past mistakes. Back in the 60's the "solution" to the "problem" of teenage mothers was SEx Education. AS the problem got worse, the more sex education was decreed. That solution rally worked didn't it?

    Do these idiots really think that introducing children to porn will be any different in the actual outcome as opposed to the intended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    @ 468

    "Pornography can be very addictive to people if they discover it at an early age. This can then lead to promiscuity issues in later life and problems with true intimacy."

    {Citation needed}

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    If you warn them, you have to explain to them. So many of my peers did not have love and affection and sex explained to them by their parents. Those who say 'families should teach their children' seem blind to the numbers of families who don't teach, and seem to think if you don't mention it, it won't happen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    Something like 35% of the internet is porn, so nearly everyone must be looking at it and most of it is not the violent degrading stuff some suggest it is. This is a PARENTING issue. There's always been areas of life children of a certain age shouldn't be exposed to and parents should be educated on how to control access it, it can be done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    General secretary Russell Hobby is working on the understanding that if you advise a child to do/not do something, that they will take that advice seriously and do exactly as you say.
    I'm afraid Mr Hobby has a long way to go in understanding children's behaviour.
    Back to the drawing board Russ.

    I miss the good old days, when the purpose of school education was to prepare you for employment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    "Your attitude towards anyone who sells sex is quite damaging as on one side you are saying sex is great, but at the same time that it's dirty and wrong, how confusing."
    The point is that Porn is awful and dirty - but sex with someone you love is great - how is that confusing? Maybe you can not tell the difference between sex and porn!!!

  • Comment number 478.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Is there actually a problem or is this someone deciding their is in order to come up with their own socially engineered solution? This is purely a parental issue, just like making their kids behave. More and more is being put on schools. A teacher isn't there to do the job for you, if you don't want to be a parent put them up for adoption when their born and they'll have more of a chance in life

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    @459. DrStel
    Server providers - the people that provide the servers? The hardware manufacturers? Stupid. If you mean the people that run the server, or the people who put the content on you might be nearer BUT be aware that most servers you look at are not UK based so are outside the jurisdiction. The ISP? They can't and shouldn't monitor it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.


    "..women did not allow themselves to be used by such awful men"
    Here we go again. Apart from the straight sex and some Jap porn. The majority of your "disgusting porn" is either women degrading and humiliating men or each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.


    Teenagers will always look at porn; that's life. I have a teenage son, and he looks at porn. It doesn't bother me to be honest. If he can get his kicks watching other people at it, he can't be getting someone pregnant or catching an STI.


    Teenagers is one thing, but the article is about primary school children, which is something else entirely.


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