Warn very young children about online porn, say school heads. Do you agree?

(67 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 20-May-13 10:46:41

Hello. We've seen in the news today that the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is saying that young children should hear about the dangers of pornography as soon as they have access to the internet.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, says, "as soon as children are getting access, it's time to begin the conversation", given the ready availability of explicit material online.

The NAHT says this issue is increasingly troubling to teachers and heads as they grapple with the impact of pornography on pupils' self-image and their perceptions of sexuality. And they think children should receive appropriate guidance as part of schools' relationship and sex education.

They also say that, according to a survey (of 1000-odd parents) that they commissioned, 83% of parents feel children should learn about the dangers of pornography in sex education lessons - and nearly half (four out of ten) think this should happen in the early primary-school years.

What do you think?

Should children be taught in school about the dangers of pornography on the internet? And if so, at what age? Do you think it's right to have your primary-school-aged child learning about such things?

Please do post your thoughts here.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 20-May-13 16:08:42

Good point about innocent search terms Rhubarb - this happened to me recently when I googled squirrel on our laptop blush

morethanpotatoprints Mon 20-May-13 16:22:38

I think if parents and teachers monitor and supervise dc on the internet theres no problem. Its easy enough to click off something that shouldn't be there. i too experienced the innocent search when ds1 was doing a project on Beavers in primary. it was quite a while ago and may have improved since then though.
Its not like young dc will be on the internet on their own anyway fb and other social media aren't supposed to be used until 13 anyway.

Dahlen Mon 20-May-13 16:56:41

I think we have to separate the ideal from the reality and find a solution that will benefit the majority of children.

My children are very au fait with computers. However, they do not have unsupervised access. I am always there - if not actually sat down with them, then at least in the same room and regularly checking what they are doing. They do not have access to the internet in any other way (no phones, tablets, games consoles, etc).

As they age, the restrictions can be lifted at the same time that as they improve their understanding of internet safety and their emotional maturity increases to deal with what they find either by accident or on purpose.

By the time my DC are able to have a Facebook (or its equivalent at the time) account, irrespective of whether I know about it, I intend the message to have been driven home about the non-sexual dangers of the internet (which are also significant) and the realities of porn - what it is, why it's unrealistic, why it's damaging, etc.

However, the sad truth is that a significant proportion of parents will not be supervising things that closely, and therefore we have to take more draconian measures. Schools should not have to pick up the pieces left by inadequate parenting, but the reality is that unless they do, this problem will only get worse.

THERhubarb Mon 20-May-13 16:58:14

Tee, I speak as a parent who took her kids out of primary sex ed. That's because I know it's my duty as a parent to teach them about sex and I take that responsibility seriously and I tell them in my own time and in my own way, however I recognise that some parents don't even feed their kids properly let alone teach them about sex. I wouldn't let a child starve and blame it on their parents so why deny them the basics of an education which includes teaching them about love and sex and relationships just because their parents do?

I don't like this nursery state either, but having seen what is online, having gone into a chat room for children and been propositioned, having seen some of the results that google throws up and learnt about porn companies targeting high seach terms that have no apparent relevance to sex or porn, I understand what a dangerous world it is. I am lucky that I am bloody internet savvy but I understand that some parents don't come across this every day. Some parents don't work with computers and they, perhaps naively, trust the computer companies and trust the internet companies. They dismiss concerns as scaremongering and they don't want us to interfere in something which keeps their kids quiet and happy - like the TV. They use it as a kind of babysitter.

If we don't do something now then the measures you take to protect your kids won't mean a jot when they are up against the majority of their peers who think that porn is realistic, who think that women are mere sexual objects and who have a very depraved view of relationships. I don't want my kids growing up in that world.

Tee2072 Mon 20-May-13 17:07:33

Rhubarb I've been on the internet since it's beginning, I am well aware of what's out there and how the sex industry (well, all industry, it's not just porn that buys domains and uses keywords to get you to a specific place) uses it's money and, yes, power, to infiltrate our lives.

In fact, it is commonly believed that without porn? We'd not have the internet we have today. Or some of the CGI we have.

But it's my job as a parent to teach my son well. To tell him that what he might see elsewhere isn't real. The same way I was taught that no knight in shining armour was going to come sweep me off my feet, no matter what the fairy tales and Disney were showing me. Sex ed does not teach about love and relationships, unless they've changed it recently. It teaches about sex. Period.

And that's no better or realistic than giving the teaching of what's bad on the 'net to the school. Because not all porn is bad. The porn industry is horrific, but porn itself can be quite fun.

In any case, we're not going to agree or change each other's mind. I'm actually very anti-government in general, which makes me a bit of a freak anyway. But mostly? I want them out of my bedroom, my computer and son's sex education.

OhLori Mon 20-May-13 17:42:52

Unfortunately, I think schools would introduce this subject clumsily and may do more harm than good.

They could even create an awareness in younger children that had not existed before, hardly helpful.

And agree with Tee, I already think sex education in primary schools is unnecessary and inappropriate IME.

Children should be left to be children.

(That said, at secondary school, I think it is slightly different.)

If the government were serious about this they could have stronger controls on pornography on TV and the internet, so that it really was only accessible to adults e.g. opting in, paying, etc.

iseenodust Mon 20-May-13 17:48:01

AMumInScot agree with you.

Primary school did an e-safety course just last month but it was for parents and you were told not to bring DC because of some of the content. Was a very useful session.

YoniBottsBumgina Mon 20-May-13 18:15:27

I don't think it's fair on children to just say "well the parents should teach them". I don't think it's fair on kids to let their parents' ideas about relationships be the only input they have either. And as rhubarb points out, some parents, perhaps even the majority, may not be internet savvy themselves and so unable to teach their children about this. Those parents probably aren't on mumsnet either!

YoniBottsBumgina Mon 20-May-13 18:18:27

Unable even if they have good intentions/want to protect them etc.

ChippingInLovesSpring Mon 20-May-13 18:58:49

I'll repost what MumInScotland said, because I agree with her totally.

^I'm not sure how you can talk to children about "the dangers of pornography" when they are at an age where they aren't even taught about "sex for fun". A certain amount of "how to keep safe while online" makes sense, and they should certainly be taught things about not sharing their information, not going to websites without checking with mum/dad/teacher - but tbh mum/dad/teacher should have controls on what they can get to anyway. So something like "If something comes up on the screen that confuses or upsets you, fetch a trusted adult" would be enough to cover it.

Pornography is an important topic to cover in sex education, but I don't think warning children from the age of 4 or 5 would be helpful, just confusing. It's like warning them against wandering off when you are out - you don't explain exactly what it is that could happen to them, that would be abusive in itself.^

It is one of those things that I think has to be left to parents to deal with. Yes, some children might miss out on that, but if we let the govt/schools do it, as many, if not more, children will be damaged by it.

ftm42 Mon 20-May-13 18:59:49

Tee2072

I agree that it should be the parents' responsibility to do sexed and it's also their responsibility to monitor Internet access, but I do recall an awful scenario when my MS was into sketching birds of prey and typed in "spread eagle wings"! He was so shocked he almost fell of his chair, as did I - too late to prevent him seeing it, even though I was looking over his shoulder at the time.

THERhubarb Mon 20-May-13 19:15:08

Porn is not fun and it IS derogatory but that's a different debate.

I am also anti-government but my fear for our children and their perception of relationships overrides my inclination towards anarchy. As Yoni says, it's not fair on the children whose parents don't give a shit, to just leave them to it. We are a society and we can't just say "I'm alright Jack", that does not sit well with me. We have a responsibility to EVERY child.

And yes sex ed does cover relationships, how their bodies develop, periods, what makes us all different, etc. It's not just about sex but I chose to fill my kids in my own way.

I also think that the collective Heads of school are merely trying to encourage a debate about children and porn because the more people who know about it, the more parents might just look into it and take action for their own children. I doubt that it will be introduced into schools and if it is, it will be along the lines already mentioned; that sometimes you can come across disburbing and upsetting images and you should always tell an adult.

From what I know, whilst schools are keen to teach parents internet safety, neither of my children have been taught it in school. I gave a lesson voluntarily at the primary school but most kids weren't really interested and I had to push it through with the school anyway.

Wishiwasanheiress Mon 20-May-13 19:15:11

What is more concerning is a teacher tasked with teaching a very fluid subject. I remember knowing more about computers and technology when young than the school faculty combined. Most occasions we taught them. I just don't see how those adults will be able to teach this in an engaging fashion. Get this wrong and you are just inviting porn searches.

I think I would prefer outside experts brought in for that specific lesson. Like the drama groups that do sketches on bullying etc. I think these lessons need to be memorable, not just part of normal lesson time.

YoniBottsBumgina Mon 20-May-13 19:27:32

That would be a hood idea heiress. Possibly costly though sad

piprabbit Mon 20-May-13 19:43:31

I think there should be a lot more support and advice given to parents about how to protect their children on line, and pornography would be part of that.

Perhaps primary schools should offer workshops covering this topic to parents, to educate the parents rather than the children.

Aranea Mon 20-May-13 20:21:37

Someone said upthread that young children wouldn't be using social media or using the Internet unsupervised. Unfortunately that's a bit naive. Just because you are doing the responsible thing with your kids, that doesn't mean they won't be visiting friends with unrestricted use of mobile devices. All of our children need to know how to behave when they find themselves in situations that a cautious parent wouldn't allow.

FrancescaBell Mon 20-May-13 20:47:53

Some incredibly naive, out of date and also plain selfish responses here.

I'm assuming this thread is asking us to think about all children and not just our own, or those who are lucky enough to live in porn-free homes with parents who are responsible and knowledgeable enough to discuss relationships, sex, porn and internet safety.

So based on the reality of life in Britain for many children, I fully support what the NAHT is saying. Schools have in any case always had a part to play in passing on life skills as well as knowledge and if they didn't, PSHE or Sex and Relationships wouldn't be a part of the curriculum. Schools haven't taught 'sex education' for years incidentally.

THERhubarb Mon 20-May-13 20:50:57

FrancescaBell, fully agree and no you are right, the school policy is on 'relationship and our bodies' so calling it sex education is probably outdated. Sex is only a small part of what they teach.

I fully agree with it but chose to take mine out as I wanted to tell them in my own way and in a way that was appropriate to their age and maturity. But for children who don't have responsible parents, yes we need to take responsibility as a caring society and provide for those children, just as we provide an education on everything else.

FrancescaBell Mon 20-May-13 20:55:43

Plus, there's no proposal to introduce this to children before Year 4, which is the age when primary/junior schools currently introduce the subject of sex, relationships and human anatomy in an age-appropriate way. But by Years 5 and 6, several children have smart phones and as the article says, have created facebook accounts and lied about their age, often with their parents' complete collusion.

Rooble Mon 20-May-13 22:26:35

Agree with what The Rhubarb said waaaay upthread: there is a tonne of utterly inappropriate stuff online that children can come across totally innocently (you only have to search the children's programmes on YouTube to find a load of hideous "adult" versions - not necessarily pornographic, but sometimes extremely violent).
There are parents who are apparently unaware of this, or perhaps find it funny or maybe even don't consider it's inappropriate (strange as this may seem), and given the role schools have in helping safeguard our children, I have no objection to them teaching children how to be safe online. Our school also runs Internet safety sessions for parents which have been extremely valuable. Unfortunately a remarkably low number of parents chose to attend.

GetKnitted Mon 20-May-13 22:36:11

Unfortunately, I think schools would introduce this subject clumsily and may do more harm than good.

They could even create an awareness in younger children that had not existed before, hardly helpful. < That. Thanks Oh Lori.

But having said that, boy oh boy has this thread opened my eyes to the lengths I will have to go to to protect my dc from seeing this stuff so young.

BasilBabyEater Mon 20-May-13 23:13:46

I would like internet porn to be regulated properly (the .xxx idea for example) so that it's impossible for young kids to come across it accidentally.

That way, the problem wouldn't arise,- we wouldn't have to explain to our five year olds about it because it wouldn't actually intrude into every area of our lives.

JoyMachine Mon 20-May-13 23:24:10

I understand that sky carries adverts for its porn channels on its other channels?? Perhaps legislating to prevent things like that would be a good move.

Also- I agree with a blanket no porn on the internet, instituted by ISPs, whereby anyone that wants to download/view (legal) porn may opt-in, and request the pages load to their IP address. Can't remember what the proper term for this is, sorry!

spidersandslugs Tue 21-May-13 00:17:13

No, why not ban it online? Make the industry illegal even?

The porn mags, especially the soft porn like zoo, nuts, etc should banned from every corner shop & supermarket & only sold in adult sex shops.

YoniBottsBumgina Tue 21-May-13 01:26:23

I would love to see the porn industry made illegal - I've never accidentally come across anything illegal while browsing the web, although I did hear about a child abuse video which was circulating on FB recently involving a 6 year old, which a teenage acquaintance of mine had clicked on, because it was on facebook and of course she wasn't expecting to see something so graphic. Anyway it's so rare that anything like this comes up whereas legal porn is sort of just a massive joke of the internet. It won't happen though because porn is so normalised in our society and, sex sells.

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