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Is it time to teach children about porn? What do you think?

(81 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-Nov-12 10:25:21

How should children be educated about porn? Is this a subject that should be taught in schools, by parents - or not at all?

Education minister Liz Truss has announced that schools were free to teach children about pornography as part of 'age appropriate' non-obligatory PSHE studies. Her intervention comes shortly after a recommendation by the National Association of Headteachers that students should be told about pornography from the age of 10, to help them protect themselves from stumbling across adult images.

Elsewhere, Childline have reported a spike in calls from children who've been traumatised by doing so, and a study last month revealed that increasing numbers of children are being exposed to porn before they become sexually active, giving them a distorted idea of what sex actually is.

What do you think? Is it time to forewarn children about pornography before they come across it? And if so, is the classroom the best place to do it? Tell us what you think - and of you blog on this, do let us know your URL: we'll be sure to tweet it.

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Sorry, I was trying to reply to Writehand's first post.

It was interesting too to read Gulp's comments, as I suspect that one of the issues about teaching it in schools, is to do with addressing different levels of awareness and exposure in children. To me, that's one of the inherent difficulties with agreeing how and what should be included in any curriculeum.

I agree also it would (in some cases) be difficult to discuss porn without examples, but not impossible. Perhaps one of the issues is how to ensure best practice, as I can see some efforts compounding the problem (and how do you prevent teaching about porn from merging into its acceptance?)

Personally, I would like to see the issues tackled at all levels and not left to schools to plug the gaps. Whether or not tackling porn in school sex education lessons is necessary or not (and sadly it might be), what is the message we are sending out? Don't take any notice of this prevalent porn, it doesn't bear much relation to "real" sex (or how we should treat women) but we tolerate the images and messages it is sending out everyday?

The message is in what we do, not just what we teach.

Totally agree sexual bullying should form part of the discussion. NIA have just published a guide to sexual bullying for parents.

www.niaendingviolence.org.uk/perch/resources/parents-guide-to-sexual-bullying.pdf

I agree also with other posters. Kids in prmiary schools should not be accessing smart phones in school. Above all, schools should be providing a safe environment. That may well mean tackling sensitively things like porn and sexual bullying when appropriate, but it also means not exposing children to risks like internet porn.

Parental controls may go some way to protecting them at home but as other posts suggests this isn't fail-proof. Communication is key.

I have blogged about the Children Commissioner's research and recommendations at

crewcutandnewt.com/2013/05/24/its-about-more-than-the-birds-and-bees/

It's a fascinating topic, that will probably run and run. Just hope that there is no simplistic one-size-fits all solution and that parents' views are fully taken into account, as well as the needs of children. Not all parents will address the issue and so I can see the need for schools to step in (as well as argument that schools can add something positive to the debate). However, in many cases, parents will have a good, if not better, understanding of their child's needs.

Refreshingly balanced approach, thanks for sharing. It's a conversation I am not looking forward to having, and it's nice to see genuine communication work.

Writehand Tue 11-Dec-12 16:16:26

Hi, morethanpotatoprints. You say "It seems unfair that the children of responsible adults should have to be educated about porn, because irresponsible parents don't monitor or even encourage their dc to become involved by providing the tools."

I think you're being a bit naive if you think it's only irresponsible parents whose kids access porn. Have you realised how ubiquitous it is?

If you read my post you'll see that even carefully secured systems can be outwitted by computer-savvy primary school kids. And how are you - or any of us - to monitor the fine detail of what happens in other people's houses? Even with child-safety software installed there's still every chance that your dc's friends will find a way to access porn.

Any child with a smart phone can access porn - witness another poster's child's exposure to graphic lesbian porn on the bus of all places.

And - from my post again - my other child got some truly dreadful stuff attached to a totally innocent music file he wanted to hear.

I know it's tempting to think that your own children are safe because you're a responsible parent, but my experience (and that of many other posters here) is that parental precautions are not enough however responsible you are. You can ban any sort of net device from the house, keep your children indoors at all times, off the bus and out of other people's houses, and the little darlings (or a friend) may still hack their friend's child-safety software. Or get shown gross material on someone else's phone.

It's sad, but it seems to be everywhere. And kids are curious. They may be sorry later, but by that time they've looked.

Writehand Tue 11-Dec-12 15:48:23

Smudging wrote: My Dss was shown a woman being fucked with a various implements before he had had his first kiss sad

I know how you feel. Same here with my Dss. It does seem sad. I didn't see anything like that until I was over 20. Porn is pretty universal for kids these days, but then back in pre-industrial times things weren't much prettier.

Country children would've been watching animals mate from the time they could toddle. OK, there can be some grandeur in horse breeding (they're such beautiful animals), but you definitely wouldn't want to witness pigs mating just before lunch! grin

And as for females being abused or passive -- female farm animals get a rotten deal in terms of fun or respect. Not a cheerful way of learning the facts of life.

StephanieDA Fri 07-Dec-12 19:23:59

I wrote my blog on this subject this week if anyone wants to take a look: www.communicatingwithkids.com/online-porn

borninastorm Thu 29-Nov-12 22:02:08

As a mother to two teenagers (and a toddler), one who is now over 18, I think that until we bring porn into the open and discuss it with our children it will continue to fascinate them (as the taboo always does) and skew their views on sex.

I agree with so many other commentators here who say we need to explain that porn isn't real and sex isn't like that.

As a single parent to a son I was the one to have the porn and sex talk with him when he was a much younger teen. It was embarrassing for him but he sat through it and took part in the discussion. We talked masturbation, sex and porn. And because I understand that people do watch porn and teenagers, in particular, are fascinated by it I told him it was ok to watch it but to not have the same expectations of the girls he would later have sex with.

That one conversation changed our relationship and brought us that little bit closer because he knew that I knew and understood what he was feeling and experiencing and that I thought it was normal and ok.

I have already begun talking to my 13 year old dd about sex and porn and sexuality.

I personally think that it should not be down to teachers or the government or anybody else to advise and inform our children about life. Teachers are there to educate our children and give them the tools to pass exams, it's not their job to advise them on their sex lives and use of porn. The goverment is there to govern, pass laws, ensure our safety and economic growth (supposedly) it is not the job of the government to raise our children or advise them on how to live their sex lives.

Parents have children and parents should raise them, talk to them, advise them and listen to them. That shouldn't be anybody else's job. I'm doing my job, I might not always do it perfectly but I'm doing my best.

OneMoreChap Thu 29-Nov-12 17:17:48

I'm old.

40+ years ago, boys used to pass round mags (and some boys had dads who'd been to Holland) and had "hard" stuff, where you could, y'know see bits,and even see them doin' it...

And no, parents didn't know all that much about it. I recall sexual rhymes well before I understood them so that was very early 60s.

Problem is things are so available now, and we are in general a far more sexualised society. I don't think this is purely porn, but also have a bee in my bonnet about how fashion destroys healthy body images, which is all part of the icky body hair thing.

I cannot see the attraction in young women who look pre-pubescent, but that must be an age thing.

There were always dirty mags in the woods, tis true.

Charbon Thu 29-Nov-12 17:06:06

Not every parent does though Aitch - and the content is far more graphic, violent and accessible now.

KateMumsnet what are you planning to do with our comments? Is this part of the DofE's consultation about PSHE that has been going on since July 2011 and still there are no proposals?

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Thu 29-Nov-12 16:31:59

even in the more innocent seventies, though (<coughs> Savile!) i remember being in primary school and seeing boys bringing in porno mags that they had liberated from their fathers'/big brothers' bedrooms. and they seemed to exist in piles in wooded areas, i sweartagod.

i know the images weren't moving, probably weren't so hard core etc but at least now we do talk to our kids.

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 16:31:52

actually my daughter has just come home from school and her friend has shown her somthing an adult cartoon family guy she seem,s to think it,s rude i have never seen it she is nine and they shoulden,t have phones in primaryschool. why is that.

I made that assumption too blush But one day he was clicking on it while playing Club penguin (uh huh!) when I was making dinner.
My other advice to all is to check the computer histories regularly!

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 15:54:25

yes i suppose it is a bad assumption on my part that porn can be asessed on a laptop in a bedroom this thread has made me think how it can be available anywhere. it,s quite obvious reading all he thread that somthing needs to be done.

Mintyy Thu 29-Nov-12 15:07:10

I think its tragic that we need to even think about this. Really tragic. I think we are failing our children.

LimburgseVlaai Thu 29-Nov-12 15:01:28

Dotty - good point about teachers being embarrassed or not best placed to pass on this kind of teaching. Also many primary schools don't have male teachers, and I think it is vital that boys have 'the talk' from a male adult.

So I agree that it would in most cases be more effective to have a consistent programme delivered by specifically trained professionals.

Dotty342kids Thu 29-Nov-12 13:25:08

This is a fascinating conversation. I have a nearly 10yr old DS and a nearly 8DD and come from a background of always being open and honest with them about sex and relationships (and having worked with teenagers on these issues). So, I'd thought I'd be fine when it comes to tackling things like this with my own kids.
However, we live somewhere very rural and slightly behind the times and so I'm sure he's not seen or heard about porn in any way (though the basics of sex have definitely filtered through!). So, although am more than happy to discuss it with him, I'm not sure it's even entered his head yet. Most kids round here get a mobile once they start at the local secondary school and I know he'll want one too, so is that the point at which, even if they've not mentioned it, you therefore have to? Oh god, it's a minefield!!
Re. schools - I definitely think that conversations about respect and realism when it comes to sex and relationships is crucial. So whilst not overtly about pornography, it'd hopefully come as a by product of talking about those issues. But are teachers really the best people to do it? I know that many teachers die of embarrassment at the basic sex ed so to open up the conversation into the arena of porn is asking a lot of them. For me, bringing in informal educators / youth workers / health workers into schools to do this work is much more effective and likely to succeed than landing yet another thing on the desks of teachers.

A couple of times on this thread people have said 'kids in their bedrooms on laptops' as if - hey you avoid that, you'll avoid porn.
In this thread, there are accounts of kids being shown porn - and none of them were in bedrooms with laptops.

Sgm, there are lots of comparisons that can be made between the church and the current porn industry- Both run by a handful of elite males seeking to control women's sexuality. in most porn, women say yes to everything no matter how painful or absurd- doesn't seem great progress from when they were expected to say no.

Glup, I agree with the teaching difficulties.

Charbon Thu 29-Nov-12 12:41:08

Secondary schools are already tackling this issue as part of PSHE provision and IMO, their input should be complementary to parental discussions and guidance at home. An increasing number of Year 5 and Year 6 10/11 year olds have internet enabled devices, so this age group is not too young to be taught about internet safety, respect for eachother's bodily autonomy and the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. Exposure to porn should be mentioned alongside discussions about why games and films are age-restricted and why censors protect minors in this way.

Ideally, both parents or guardians should be discussing porn with children, but it should never be under-estimated how much impact is made when male role models take the lead in home discussions about porn; fathers, older brothers, uncles and grandfathers. It's easy for cynical teenagers especially to think that 'Mum is on her feminist soapbox again', but it's especially powerful when their Dad explains why porn can be problematical both personally and politically. It can be tricky to get this right and strike the balance between reassuring young people that curiosity is natural and nothing to be ashamed about - and protecting them from unrealistic, hateful, misogynistic and damaging images.

It's also very important to focus on the positive and engender an expectation that sex is meant to be a fun, enjoyable activity between consenting participants who treat eachother with respect. What constitutes consent is particularly crucial - and discussions about coercion and pressure that is either exerted or experienced.

As for restricting children's access to the internet, I think taking away their rights is the wrong approach and by the time they go to secondary school, is fruitless and counter-productive. Their rights to conduct a safe search have already been trampled on by the porn money-makers; taking away their rights of use compounds that abuse. Currently it would be virtually impossible for GCSE students to pass exams without internet access; Maths. relies on students' use of the MyMaths website and there are numerous revision podcasts - in addition to the research available on the web. As parents we've always found the best approach is to give them the facts and then trust them to self-monitor.

It is vital that schools discuss porn in PSHE, because some parents can't or won't raise the issues at home and young people need the best guidance from the most educated sources. One of the most important messages for boys is that it's okay not to like or use porn, or to give into peer pressure to watch it. It's often overlooked that boys are under tremendous pressure to like porn and to want to emulate the sex that is featured in it and that this pressure sometimes comes from their female partners as well as their male peers. Fortunately it is embedded in PSHE that girls are encouraged to resist sexual coercion and pressure, but boys are often overlooked in this respect.

It can be especially difficult for schools to strike the right balance, because teachers are acutely aware that some students live in homes where the adults use porn and there is potential for an adversarial conflict with the messages students are absorbing from parents, but there are some fantastic resources available to generate debate and discussion.

I agree that porn should be contextualised within a backdrop of wider societal issues such as misogyny and general unkindness towards people who don't fit societal norms but it's utterly pointless pretending that exposure to porn before a young person has become sexually active is harmless. As it is to deny the impact that porn has had on beauty practices or young people's expectations of how they should look and behave. Educating young people to follow the money and to question the exploitative nature of porn and how it suppresses sexual and personal expression rather than frees, is a particularly effective tactic. Young people are not stupid and they don't like the thought of being manipulated or exploited.

gloomywinters2 Thu 29-Nov-12 10:05:54

I don,t think schools should be responsible all the time it come,s from the parents too if your going to give a child a laptop and LET them use it in bedroom all day then that,s wrong, it should be downstairs for the family to use.if your going to give a child a phone at an early age then expect there going to be curious and down load porn too. technology is good but it,s a bad thing too having camera,s on phones bad idea and the internet what happened to the days when phone,s used to be phones.

Blueschool Wed 28-Nov-12 22:58:55

Thisis

Definitely -that is another hugely worrying aspect. I agree, I don't think you can quite have that conversation at 10 as its possibly not age appropriate.

However, I think trying to forewarn them at age 10 to prepare them about the graphic and often disturbing nature of porn (average age to first see porn is 11 apparently) and offer your unconditional support if they are to see something then at least they know they can turn to their parents.

I feel it would be more about reducing potential psychological damage at the first stage of "the talks".

purpleroses Wed 28-Nov-12 22:56:08

I talk to my children openly about almost anything - puberty, sex, relationships, stranger danger, chat rooms, etc - but have to admit I'm really at a loss with porn. I don't know how they can begin to understand what it is, or why it appeals to some adults. I would agree that ideally parents should be involved in teaching children about it, but would really welcome some ideas and child-friendly language to use with them.

When DS was about 11 I found out he and a friend had been googling "sexing people" or some such daft term - he said he was hoping to see pictures of naked people. I responded by installing (overdue!) parental software but really struggled with explaining why what he might come across - had his search terms been a bit better - wouldn't have been pictures of naked people or even just people having sex, but a whole other world of stuff he doesn't ever have to have anything to do with.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 28-Nov-12 22:55:41

THisis: The misogyny doesn't start with porn or only come from porn. It would be lovely if DC could get educated in school about the misogyny of religion, for instance...

morethanpotatoprints Wed 28-Nov-12 22:48:08

It is not porn that needs to be stopped, this will never happen. Even if it is regulated somehow on internet, tv, advertising, etc. The industry will find a way round this. There is nothing wrong with porn for consenting adults and instead of looking at this surely society should be looking towards themselves.
Don't give your kids these phones and internet access when you can't supervise it. Computers at school have filters and are monitored by teachers. Parents should monitor there use at home. It seems unfair that the children of responsible adults should have to be educated about porn, because irresponsible parents don't monitor or even encourage their dc to become involved by providing the tools. There is no way I would allow an adult to talk to my dd about porn, thats my job when the time is right.

But it's the misogyny of the porn that is the problem - and explaining that to a young kid IS difficult.

Look at the stuff passed round by kids now - its not free women enjoying great sex - its young women being fucked by a group, women being come over, women being exploited blah blah.

I agree there is a lot of misogyny in the media too, and that's a great way in for those conversations.

My friend today said her 10 year old said when she gets hair she has to shave it off otherwise boys won't like her. That's not happy or healthy sexual development.

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