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 533.

    It's no different to how people of a certain generation used to stumble across mags in the woods though is it? At least you don't see that anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Sure this has already been picked up but the debate should focus on:

    1: Does access to porn increase the likelihood of one going out and re-enacting what they have seen online?
    2: Or does it provide an outlet and to curb any sexual desires.

    I know if my wife is not in the mood for sex, I load up the computer, do my business and I'm fine for the rest of the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    "What is on-line now (and free) is hard core, abusive, violent and degrading to women"

    That's what the anti-porn brigade want you to believe, it is not all like that and as it's by far the biggest area of the internet clearly nearly everyone is looking at it!

    Parents need to take responsibility just like any other "adult" activity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    @505. Little_Old_Me
    Actually I don't give a fig about whether you think a porn watcher is a pervert or not. What I do find shocking is that people want to ban everything THEY don't like. I don't like people telling me their religion is best, but I can say no so why ban them? My children are also bought up in the same way - if you don't like it don't do it/ view it, no one makes you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    So, when the child asks in school about something they've seen on a playmate's phone, is the teacher supposed to say "sorry, can't answer that - best ask your parents" leaving the child confused that this trusted adult can't or won't answer their questions.
    Like most things, it's better dealt with there and then in a low-key way rather than leaving the child to worry about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    525. Steve84
    517 "Other than hairy palms and fading eyesight - what are the dangers?"

    Stumbling across one of your female relatives as 'star of the show'.
    Might not be dangerous but it's definitely going to stay with you for a while....

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    we are all victims of porn especially in uk and america but elsewhere and its ironic if ur nor defending it as a good thing or some kind of freedom of art/expression etc thats the most stupid idea. there are so many addicts and yet people think they arent the ones defending it are even worse addicts. also it is not about sti/pregnanacy obviously people need to know dangers and about safe sex but

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Filter and regulate end of. Civil liberties? A ruse used by purveyors of filth , humiliation,abuse and human degradation . End it now. Close down all porn sites .

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    517 "Other than hairy palms and fading eyesight - what are the dangers?"

    Funnily enough those are both myths used to dissuade. So you've got me there, I've got nothing.
    Except maybe kids growing up thinking facials are the norm and young boys getting a slap from surprised young girls... although saying that it could solve teenage pregnancy levels when you think about it.

  • Comment number 524.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    I accept that that is the traditional way to enjoy sex, but there are many people who enjoy more and they are not all filthy perverts. Many are the very respectable couple in the semi-detached nextdoor.

    I don't think accidentally seeing porn is as damaging as some people thing. Events only become traumatic if the parents don't address the aftermath correctly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    To those that ask 'what are the dangers' in relation to children...

    Remember, this is talking about pretty young children. Yes, they may have come across their parents having sex, but that's not the same as porn.

    They may see something & with a child's mindset think 1 person is hurting the other. This is about tools to address such questions or concerns.

    Read the acrticle if in doubt.

  • Comment number 521.

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

  • Comment number 520.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Why don't schools understand that some elements of a child's life are outside their remit. This and numerous other topics are the responsibility of the parents and of the family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    I am far more concerned about the violence kids are exposed to. Whether its violent porn, violence in a movie, violence at school, or violence at home, its all worse than most pornography. Sure, some porn is violent and inappropriate in other ways, but most of it isn't. We should be far more concerned about the parents showing hate and violence to each other, or kids bullying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    Other than hairy palms and fading eyesight - what are the dangers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    I was on the internet from a very young age. My parents just sat me down before letting me go on, and said "The internet is a great place, with loads of good things - but just like in real life, there are places you don't go and people you don't speak to. So be careful."

    And then they let me get on with it. I never saw anything bad.
    Kids aren't stupid. Just take the time to explain things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    "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."
    I agree - in private between 2 people and not put on film for all to see and perv over!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Can't see the big deal to be honest. Just stress it's acting and not real.


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