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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  • Comment number 513.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    Things that traumatised me as a kid:

    The original ending to the little mermaid
    The murder scene in American History - X
    Poltergeist (should not have watched that at 12)
    Jurassic Park
    A documentary on Herculaneum (lots of skeletons).
    Not a huge amount of sex there.

    @506: I don't know where you're looking but I am yet to stumble upon that type of porn. It's out there sure, but most is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    person i should think i would know. this is typical coming from non religious or people who think its freedom holding far too liberal views such as in uk and america. im muslim too so ofcourse the fact that religion is against such things for greater good and all faiths are, but never mind that to put that aside it still doesnt hide the harmful affects of it. we see it in the news all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Wow, once again palming parental responsibility off onto the schools. For starters the school's internet should be so locked down and filtered that children at school have no chance of stumbling across pornography. In fact I would have thought that to be the current situation anyway! Parents should be dealing with this situation at home. If they don't have the web at home problem already solved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    to Carl (99) - not sure why its the Editors pick??

    On-line porn IS NOT HARMLESS. Perhaps you haven't looked at it since you were young with your friends but things have changed.... What is on-line now (and free) is hard core, abusive, violent and degrading to women. I have boys, teens and younger, and i am teaching them that sex is about respect & relationship and porn is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    @ 492

    I risk repeating my last post however the buzz words of gender-ideologues carry little weight because what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    What are the dangerous of pornography by the way? Other than unrealistic expectations, I can't think of any.

    Peronally, I'd say TV shows such as "Geordie Shore" where vacuous morons are made into celebrities are be far more damaging to a young mind, but maybe that's just me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    It's obvious from reading a lot of the posts here today that many people have no idea what is considered 'porno' on the net. It isn't online top shelf mags from the 70s. Even if it starts 'soft' almost all declines into torture, bestailty, violence. Wnat your kids growing up think that that is 'normal sex'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    As ever the perverted porn munchers are in force trying to justify there disgusting, exploitative, perversion.......

    ....that they are so utterly DESPERATE to try & justify their filthy habit shows just how much they all know inside how wrong it is.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Paedophiles were, if I understand correctly, more often than not, sexually abused at a very early age, hence, this vile unnatural behaviour, that's forcibly inflicted on them, eventually, becomes their particular sexual practice, so it would appear to be fairly obvious that children who have access to all the, unnatural? extremities of porn, may also, to some degree, eventually be corrupted by it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    @487.Tim Thompson

    "until we block illicit content it will be a problem that seriously damages generations of children and teenagers."
    Will it, really? Have you actually spoken to children today or are you just making assumptions? Surprisingly, the number of young girls who are sexually aware seem to have a lot more respect for their bodies than those who have been left in the dark.

  • Comment number 502.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Most mainstream browsers and virus software programmes have blocking and filtering options, some specifcally set up already with suggested default parental controls. The problem is parents ignorance or unwillingness to use them. Educate the parents, not the children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Surely any attempts to teach small children of the dangers of internet pornography will just damage them psychologically? I would hate for my children to have been taught sex was wrong at a young age, that could lead to mental health issues that could last a lifetime. These prudish people need to back away and worry more about supervising their children while they are online.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    For decades newsagents were forced to stock degrading top-shelf porn mags in full view of all customers due to contractual agreements with the big media/publishing companies.

    Now internet porn (often higher quality) is seen as a big problem. Who's commercial interests are being threatened here, I wonder?

  • Comment number 498.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    I don't know what kind of person you are but you seem to be putting the blame on the women. There is no supply if there is no demand. Women AND men watch porn - of all sorts. There is porn that I wouldn't watch but people will still make it because someone else will. For some people having uncovered hair is bad.. for others the limit is totally elsewhere. YOU are your own best filter

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    Minimum Facebook age is 13, not 14. Mr Watkins appears to be in need of a little personal education himself, it's not exactly hard to get this stuff right if you open your eyes...

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Put the family PC / MAC in the living room in plain view, lock away the power supply and password protect the internet connection when you can't personally supervise them.
    If a parent is naive enough to give their child a device with wi-fi on it they only have themselves to blame.
    I never went looking for these things as a kid simply because I wasn't given the means to do so and left alone !

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    what!? porn is very bad it can ruin lives and does for the majority of people who watch t, never mind use it for such purposes as rape and child abuse etc
    some of you people, the people commenting are mad defending it.how can you when the dangers clearly outweigh any positives it all starts of small then very rapidly becomes and addiction also does masturbation as they are linked. as young person


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