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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.

I do think we need to cut kids off at that bridge (!) but I'm not convinced how.

Of course, Parents need to make sure their controls are water-tight so I'd like to see more information for us too. talking with kids is always good but difficult at school I imagine; some would have no idea, others would be heavy users, I imagine.

I would like to see people, in particular men, campaign against porn in general. I hate the idea that all men use it, this myth also needs challenging. Children will look at porn if it's regarded as a norm by society.

Children were looking at porn on phones at DS junior school. It's horrific to think this is their first vision of sex.

niceguy2 Wed 28-Nov-12 11:57:06

Maybe it is about time that porn was discussed around the same time as sex education. And kids should be taught that expecting porn to reflect what real sex is like is a bit like an alien watching Star Wars to know what living on Earth is like.

But I am slightly uncomfortable at the notion that this is yet another thing which schools have to do because parents are failing in their duties.

I mean why do junior school children even have smartphones, let alone at school? Where are the parents when they are loading these movies on their phones?

I've long argued that parental controls can only ever be a small part of the solution and no substitute for proper parenting. If you give your child a laptop and allow them to spend hours in their bedrooms with it then you only have yourself to blame if they are googling porn.

I truly hope this thread doesn't descend into the usual 'well the government should jolly well block porn and anyone who thinks otherwise is just afraid of losing access to porn' and we can debate the actual value of discussing porn in education which is the topic at hand.

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:04:50

Yes please.

I do think that it should be made clear that porn movies, like other movies, are works of fiction performed by actors and marketed to a certain audience. It is not a benchmark nor an expectation of things to come/do/ask others to do.

I love sci-fi but I do not expect an alien scanning my items at the supermarket.

I would also like to see anti-bullying campaigns updated with 'resisting porn'. It is my impression girls are bullied into performing sex acts as see in movies / commented upon in demeaning ways following boys seeing porn movies, etc.

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:05:57

X post with niceguy2!

FrequentFlyerRandomDent Wed 28-Nov-12 12:07:28

As a parent, I fully expect to have this conversation with my children.

I also see the value of school validating/renewing this message.

I suppose it's schools with parents, not schools instead of parents, however I see what you mean about this being another burden on schools.

DS doesn't have a laptop and computer is in the living room. When he was about 8, he was told to put, sexy naked lady in search. When DH told me I laughed at first - I would have looked that up in the dictionary at his age - but then I saw what images it produced- open legged, shaved, close ups. Eurgh. That was the day we put on controls.
He since (when about 10) has searched for 'MILF' and anal sex because Everyone at school was talking about it. Nice.
This really is a societal problem and no one knows what effects it will have yet.

I agree about it fitting in with bullying campaigns.

rockinhippy Wed 28-Nov-12 12:17:44

I've already had conversations about this sort of thing with my own 10yr old DD - I compared it with fantasy & horror films in that its just not reality & therefore no-one can ever make you feel that it is normal & to be expected of you, your body, your choice etc & anyone putting expectations on you that you weren't comfortable with, they had a problem not you

Got to admit though it pees me right off that its necessary at such a young age, I can't think of any other topic where mopping up the mess it creates is seen as the correct way forward, rather than dealing with the problem at source - ie sorting out the in your face, way too easy access to online porn - I ended up with hard core images popping up on my IPad after accidentally hitting a link whilst looking at games with herangry

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 12:19:40

Yes, schools should teach it; but parents should too. And even that is not enough.

To be honest by the time a child gets taught this lesson as part of sex ed, or whatever it will come under, it's probably too late. It's like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. They will already have seen porn.

I only have DDs but am very worried about access to online porn. I DO think it needs to be 'opt-in' rather than 'opt-out'. It's far too available for children to see - and the relationships boards on this website show how damaging high exposure of porn is even to consenting adult relationships.

Teaching this in schools should be done, but it can only go a small way to tackling what I see as a huge problem in society.

BlissfullyIgnorant Wed 28-Nov-12 12:19:49

There is room for improvement in sex education. Kids need to be taught what is allowed (informed, consenting, etc) and what is not (sadism without permission, rape, etc) as well as what is normal and what isn't (paedophilia, beastiality, necrophilia, etc) and why. The why bit is crucial to decent behaviour and respect between consenting partners.

It's also a good idea to learn a bit of terminology; it's nice hmm when your DS knows what a dildo is shock and that he feels comfortable asking about sex and all that sticky stuff blush, but when he sends you a message saying "we're in Y's room having a gang bang," you know there is a bit of a gap in the life lessons! grin

rockinhippy Wed 28-Nov-12 12:24:49

I also don't think its a Schools job, but I can see why its needed, it's likely the parents of the kids most at risk from developing twisted sexual views from early exposure to hardcore online porn, because they are taking the easy option & not policing their DCs computer time - these will probably be the same parents who are not redressing the balance by talking to their kids about what they see sad

janelikesjam Wed 28-Nov-12 12:26:24

Actually, there is alot of porn everywhere, not just interenet. I have seen quite shocking porn on normal TV i.e. not adult channels, e.g. Pick TV etc after 10 p.m. What if my son had got up at night and turned TV on and accidentally seen it which is what I did?

No-one seems to care about this. I don't understand why the government did not support "Opt in" and I don't understand why porn programmes like Sexetera are on normal i.e. not adult TV.

I do not think children should be taught about porn in primary school though. They are already get sex eduation at this age in some primary schools that is way too advanced for their age IMO.

I think restricting TV and internet porn i.e. having to "opt in" is a start.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 12:27:50

Teenage school girls interviewed by the Sunday Times magazine this year said that they wished sex ed had:

- told them clearly that there is an option of saying 'no' to sex
- mentioned (never mind stressed) that sex should only ever be part of a loving committed relationship

This feature was actually about the morning after pill and young girls having to use it regularly because boys are refusing to wear condoms. Influence of porn again? sad

LimburgseVlaai Wed 28-Nov-12 12:53:15

For many years, my sister worked in a primary school in the Netherlands where she was responsible for sex ed lessons for girls (girls and boys are taught separately). Since the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is so much lower than in the UK I thought it would be useful to get her views on this.

She says that in her lessons, she puts a lot of emphasis on giving the girls the 'tools' to help them say no. A lot of the girls, at age 10 or 11, have already been exposed to internet porn by that stage, and of course so have the boys. They think the norm is: to have very noisy sex; to be completely shaven; for the girl/woman not to (appear to) enjoy it; and to have anal sex. So in her lessons, my sister answers questions from the girls about those topics and stresses that porn is not real life. The girls often feel they cannot discuss these things with their parents, and having these lessons together at school with a trusted teacher means that they can have an open discussion of all their fears and (often) misconceptions.

I think school has a vital part to play in sex education: not just the mechanics (i.e. the biology) but even more importantly the social/societal aspects. You cannot expect parents to know everything that goes on in their child's life, particularly now that so much of that life happens online. And many parents are either not able to have such conversations (perhaps because of embarrassment) or they are not fussed.

Lavenderhoney Wed 28-Nov-12 12:57:47

I am against it I'm afraid as a topic, even non-obligatory, at school for 10 year olds, who as a majority have not reached puberty and have no experience of sex or dating. ( hopefully) I would worry it would inspire children to want to see more, and become normalised to porn.
How does it protect them? Are they going to be shown porn so they can recognise it? And then shown a bit of vanilla sex after? Deeply confusing and will it just be heterosexual porn?

Surely teaching children life skills such as kindness, respect and equality, not allowing bullying and encouraging children to mature into young adults sure in the knowledge they do not have to have sex until they are ready or ideally in a committed relationship would be more beneficial.

Interested in all the opinions, as my reaction is based on initial reading of the question.

LimburgseVlaai Wed 28-Nov-12 13:24:37

Lavenderhoney - I don't think anyone would want to show porn to children as part of sex education lessons at school (at least I hope not). But if the subject comes up, either as a result of a direct question by a child, or if the teacher thinks that a child may have been exposed to porn because of the things they are saying, then it should be addressed. Just in the same way that homosexuality needs to be addressed, and any other related topics. You cannot dodge these things, hoping they will go away or hoping not to 'contaminate' innocent minds.

It's not just porn either. A lot of content that would not be classified as 'porn' can be just as insidious. Think of the kinds of music video they are likely to see on youtube, they often stop only just short of porn. A 10-year-old might not have been exposed to porn, but they are very likely to have been exposed to sexual images that are not true to life and that might be giving them the idea that such bodies and such behaviours are 'normal'. My sister tells me about boys worrying that their willy is too small, and girls worrying that their vagina looks weird.

Children need to be taught how to consume media, that not everything they see is true. That applies to advertising as well as to films. If they have been exposed to porn, you would tell them that these films are not real life, just like Spiderman and Voldemort are not real.

MamaMary Wed 28-Nov-12 13:36:51

I agree that music videos are basically porn sad The reality is we are living in a pornografied society and far more should be done to prevent children from seeing this stuff, which is hugely misogynistic btw.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Wed 28-Nov-12 13:41:30

i think that it starts really early, with parents pointing out that photos are doctored, films aren't real life etc. i do this with mine aged 4 and 6 and we have a right old laff about how images of women are so often so ridiculous. and men, tbf, their father is not in possession of a six pack. there are plenty of speeded-up films online of models' faces being photoshopped, and i would hope that when it's time for the conversation about porn etc to be covered that we would have covered a lot of the basics.

hettie Wed 28-Nov-12 13:53:39

I know from the work that I do (without outing myself professionally) that children are accessing porn and passing it on between themselves. It’s readily available and considered ‘normal’- everything from their games console to their phone is internet enabled so access is not a problem. It is already having an effect- ask any clinician working in a sexual health environment about the percentage of young women who have a full Brazilian.... The influence of porn on young men (and women) mean that it’s considered ‘gross’ to have pubic hair, and rough sex is ‘normal’. We desperately need to be having conversations with our young people about how these images are viewed by them, talk to them about where they come from (who makes them/who has a stake in making money from them) and how they might relate to actual sex in an actual relationship. These conversations need to take place more openly and routinely both at home/at school and in other environments (media/tv online forums etc). It needs to be seen as something debatable......And we need to move quickly on this...

cheapandchic Wed 28-Nov-12 13:53:54

I 100% think it should be addressed in schools. No matter how great of a parent you are and how open you are to sex talks....the fact is your kids may not be. They may not be comfortable telling mummy what they have seen and heard even if the concerned parent is asking.

I think separate classes for the boys and girls is a great start, as it encourages more openness.

I am going by my own experiences...and this was way before the porn onslaught of today...When I had talks with my mother, I explained what I knew, the logistics, body parts, puberty, sex, pregnancy and that was good. But you better believe that I didnt tell her that my best friend was forced into sex at 12 years old, that boys were demanding blow jobs and my friends and I had no clue what to do and were terrified. There are certain things kids may not discuss with parents that they might bring up more freely in a same sex classroom.

The technology is everywhere and part of todays culture. They are going to get disposed somewhere, somehow...better to address it young.

cheapandchic Wed 28-Nov-12 13:57:11

sorry exposed.

CanonFodder Wed 28-Nov-12 13:59:32

I think it's time that the issue of porn was dealt with full stop. It's time we put it back into the consensual 'opt in' box in which it belongs instead of having to teach children that it is to be avoided. WTF have we come to if we can't reasonably prevent our kids from coming across this crap?

quietlysuggests Wed 28-Nov-12 14:25:35

I agree it should be addressed in schools but do not like the race to the bottom approach in terms of age which is basically well, SOME will access it age 12 so teach it age 10. SOME start having sex age 13 so teach about dildos and anal sex age 11 is just abusive imo
Teach it at an appropriate level ie age 14-16

I wonder how they can address it in schools effectively. I mean kids know it is out there and they know that some adults watch it.

So Do you say- yes many men like to watch women, who most have been abused, most who have sexual diseases, many who have drug issues, many who have anal fissures, some who might not be consenting, be fucked?

If you don't say that and just address the fantasy element, then maybe you are saying its all fine and lovely but wait til your older.

It's all soul destroying for an adult, let alone a kid.

gottasmile Wed 28-Nov-12 14:54:01

"WTF have we come to if we can't reasonably prevent our kids from coming across this crap?" I couldn't agree more.

Hettie, your post has made me so sad and worried for kids today (mine included).

How are we or the schools supposed to stop kids from looking with their games consoles, their phones or anywhere else they have access to the internet and then showing all their friends? How do we know that discussing it won't make kids want to know more and see for themselves?

I just wish we could stop online porn. How can it be stopped?

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