I can already hear the outrage and distaste were a proposal to teach
pornography as part of sex education to quite young children be
introduced in the U.S.!
Look a bit more closely at Ofsted’s rationale and, whether you think
9-year-olds should learn how to view pornography or not, it’s clear that
the impetus is to better prepare students for the realities presented
by the world today.
PSHE education currently focuses overly much
on “teaching about friendships,” leaving them poorly prepared for puberty, says the report
. “Children as young as nine are increasingly accessing pornographic internet sites,” Ofsted points out
and without sex education that acknowledges such, children could be at
risk of being subjected to “sexual exploitation” or “inappropriate
178 students who were interviewed for the report
noted they are taught about abortion and contraception. But they also
said they felt that sex education instruction “avoided discussing
controversial topics such as sexual abuse, homosexuality and
pornography.” The result is that the safety of children and teenagers is
being compromised as they are not receiving help in protecting
themselves “from unwanted physical or sexual contact or sexual
exploitation.” Says Ofsted:
Lack of high-quality, age-appropriate sex
and relationships education in more than a third of schools is a
concern as it may leave children and young people vulnerable to
inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. This is because
they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the
confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go to for
As the Guardian
points out, ChildLine
counsellors say they are receiving more and more — around 50 — calls a
month from “teenagers upset by pornography.” Simply shielding children
from such websites and teaching them about “friendships and
relationships” could have the unintended effect of endangering them.
Should Schools Be Responsible for Teaching Students about Pornography?
The call for training teachers to instruct students about the dangers of pornography comes from the U.K.’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers
The union has passed a resolution that “schools must ensure that
pornography does not become seen as so normal that youngsters expect it
to be part of everyday life.”
The U.K.’s Department for Education is indeed leaving it up to teachers
to “the freedom to tailor their teaching so it meets the needs of their
pupils’ as “the best people to fix this problem are teachers on the
ground, not politicians in Westminster.”
As Elizabeth Schroeder, the executive director of Answer
, a national sex-education organization based at Rutgers University, said to the New York Times
in 2012: “Your child is going to look at porn at some point. It’s
inevitable.” She also says that “if we flip out, freak out or go crazy
about it, we’re giving a very set message,” one that leads children to
feel they will be “judged or punished” if they ask about pornography.
Other experts note that the most common mistake parents make about
pornography on the Internet is “to wait to have the conversation until
some incident precipitates it.”
Ofsted is taking a pro-active stance in calling for children to be
taught about pornography. It goes without saying that the Internet has
become a routine part of any students’ education; teachers are seeking a
way to address the fact that, on the Internet’s “information highway,”
students are just going to encounter inappropriate content. Instead of nervously shooing away or outright shielding children
from a pornography site, the Ofsted report
calls for instructing them about it and preparing them in advance.
Is this asking too much from teachers? Could such instruction backfire?
Or is Ofsted’s proposal a timely acknowledgement of what we need to prepare children for in the Internet age?