Warn young children about pornography, say heads

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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 613.

    NO NO!!
    The pedophiles are going to love this!
    What's the point of protecting children from porn on the web when they are thinking of teaching it in schools! For heavens sake, this is madness! It is another crazy idea, that makes me think that the 'lunatics really have taken over the asylum'. I have no issue with 'proper' sex education, and would encourage it, but porn? No, absolutely not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    We're tackling the wrong problem here; kids become ingenious and sneaky when told no. They will find a way to watch porn no matter how many content filters you put on things to stop them. What really needs bolstering is sex education - classes need to include lessons like "porn is a fantasy, now this is what will really happen". Porn on its own isn't damaging - but porn and ignorance together is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Perhaps Russell Hobby needs to actually use the new Google search, create an account in seconds, tick filters etc, parental controls in place and it is very difficult to find porn unless you type specific words and it is now easily possible to filter all explicit language and images, so your kids have more chance of seeing porn like it was in the good old days, down the newsagents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    @195. eesa
    Just not possible, besides the problem of what is porn they would have to view every page - including the thousands of new ones each day.
    @585. Abatha loves Anton
    Who my daughter goes out with is her choice not mine, but I would rather a porn addict than one who makes her cover herself head to toe while selling their kids off into arranged marriage

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    "In all seriousness: Sex is a healthy and natural part of life, and masturbating to porn is a perfectly healthy outlet for sexual desire."

    If that is how you get by - you just keep telling yourself that! A healthy outlet for sexual desire would be to form a relationship with a girl/boy and actually have sex!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    There are ways and means of protecting kids from the dark side of the internet, a device for the home network costs around £400, 99.9% of parents think thats too much to spend....

    Actually most virus protection software that comes bundled with new PC's can block specific searches and websites with 18 content. Parents need to take control!

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    I think that people need to read the article properly. Nowhere does it say porn should be banned. Nowhere does it say teenage boys looking at porn is a terrible thing. This is about trying to protect young children from seeing extreme images they won't understand and giving them the knowledge that to understand that it is not a reflection of reality if they do see it. Surely that is common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Try telling your teenage son/daughter not to smoke; Before you know it they'll be down some ally coughing their guts up.

    Surely it's better that parents simply make their children aware at a certain age that it's fantasy - I'd like to know what these dangers of young people watching something that's part of normal human behaviour, and that they're naturally going to be curious in, is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    @585.Abatha loves Anton
    It seems like you have a rather sexist attitude yourself and blame everything on the male of the species, whereas I have heard quite a few women make suggestions to their partners of trying new sexual acts, some of them fairly outrageous.

    But either way if both (or more) partners agree to engage in these acts what business is it of yours to disaprove?

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Children definitely need educating about this, there's a lot of great porn out there, but far too much naff stuff to wade through before you find it.

    We should legislate for minimum standards in porn, with rigorously enforced categorisation and content.

    In all seriousness: Sex is a healthy and natural part of life, and masturbating to porn is a perfectly healthy outlet for sexual desire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Eeee when I were a lad we didn't ave t'inernet fer porn.

    We had the collection of 'nuddie mags' that one of my friends managed to swipe from his dads collection, I think I must have been around 12 at the time.

    There are ways and means of protecting kids from the dark side of the internet, a device for the home network costs around £400, 99.9% of parents think thats too much to spend....

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    585. Abatha loves Anton
    Message to those who are saying porn isn't dangerous: would you want your daughter going out with a boy who thought things he had seen on the net were usual?
    Al Que'da beheading videos?
    Some of The HYS posts about gay marriage?

    There's plenty of disturbing, none-porn stuff online too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    @PerryLuss "If he can get his kicks watching other people at it, he can't be getting someone pregnant..."

    On the foolish assumption that he will be satisfied with masturbation.
    Human nature is to want "more/better" if that is money, clothes, cars or sex.
    Sex is hard to control than any under desire because its always available/easy to access. unlike money or cars or houses especially for teens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    It's all that Rhianna's fault that is, dressing like dat, leading dem kidz down dat slippery slope. The yoof of 2day eh!

    Lesson: There's porn out there, don't be afraid of it, talk about it, don't get addicted to it, it's not like that in real life. Perhaps followed by an old porn shot of a 70's bush to make the point. Gasp!!

    Don't scaremonger, teach & treat them with respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    I'd rather my daughter went out with a healthy knowledge and understanding of sex, and with the ability to say no to anything she may be uncomfortable with.
    But doesn't that go without saying? It is your job as a parent to teach and educate on these sort of things - we do we need porn to do that? I am not saying ban it as much as I detest it - I would more like to see society just shun it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    I really don't know what all the fuss is about, we need to educate our young people in the ways of the world. Graphic images of sex have been around since the 9th Century, Kama Sutra, Unfortunatly the west was unaware of this for another six hundred years. The internet is the media in which it gets viewed.

  • Comment number 597.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Who do you think posts this stuff on the net?

    Mostly business people, and yes some are women. There's big money in porn because there's big demand. But parents must take the same approach to porn as drugs, alcohol etc, take responsibilty to manage and educate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    Any attempt to inform children about the dangers of pornography has to be welcome. But it needs to be done from the perspective of making them understand the damage it does to their own psychological well-being as well as the negative impact it has on the quality of relationships and the knock-on effects for their future partners and children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    18 Minutes ago
    Porn is not the problem. It's the poor sex education from both parents and schools. All teenagers really need to know is when it comes to porn, the real life experience is not what you see on the net.

    I think this is exactly what the NAHT is saying. I don't see anywhere that they want it banned, they just want children protected from it.


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