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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Sex education: Children ‘learning from violent porn’

ART GALLERY

Children as young as 11 are learning about sex from pornography, sexual health experts have said.

They say they are seeing an increasing number of young people who believe sex needs to be violent as a result.

Dr Kate Howells is concerned a lack of detail in plans for a new relationship and sex education (RSE) curriculum could see inconsistent teaching.

The Welsh government said “online safety, consent and sexual health” were all included in proposals.

If approved in the Senedd in December, details of the RSE code will be published in January.

It would then be introduced to schools in September 2022 as mandatory learning for all pupils aged three to 16.

Dr Kate Howells fears children learning sex from porn without context affects relationships

Dr. Howells, an associate specialist in sexual health who works in Bridgend, Swansea, and Neath Port Talbot, believes that access to digital devices is the most significant change in teaching young people about sex education.

“Pornography is frequently just one or two clicks away,” she explained.

“For those as young as 10 or 11, it might be their first sexual experience.”

Research by the British Board of Film Classification also shows more than 60% of children aged 11 to 13 who had seen pornography said it was unintentional.

A mother told the NSPCC that she discovered hundreds of “sexual in nature” messages, as well as “pornographic cartoons and videos,” on her 13-year-old daughter’s phone.

The new curriculum is due to be introduced in 2022

A 16-year-old expressed concern that she had become addicted to porn after watching it every night since someone “dared” her to do so in Year 7.

According to Dr. Howells, such experiences indicate that some children are learning about sex from porn without the context of being in a caring relationship.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of young people who believe that sex has to be violent,” she added.

“It’s frequently exaggerated and unrealistic, and if it’s not addressed, it could have a massively negative impact on young people.”

Dr Jasmin Khan Singh says young people are often surprised by how unrealistic porn is

According to Dr. Jasmin Khan Singh, an associate specialist in sexual medicine and sexual health at Cardiff Royal Infirmary, many young people believe that pornography is not realistic.

“You have to tell them that the world is not what they see on the internet. “They lack the developmental capacity to make sense of it,” she explained.

Both experts have welcomed the inclusion of online safety in the draught guidance, but emphasise the importance of the curriculum addressing the effects of pornography and the dangers of digital devices.

“I think sometimes young people view porn as their sex education if they don’t get the information they need from other sources, that’s where they’ll look to learn,” Dr. Howells said.

“Teachers are embarrassed to talk about sex with students.”

Experts want more detail on what will be taught in schools

Sophie Whitehead, a former secondary school teacher who now works with the School of Sexuality Education, helps provide in-school workshops across Wales, England and Scotland about sexual health, pornography and positive relationships.

She said: “We teach the differences between what they see in pornography and what they can expect in their own sexual experiences.”

Mrs. Whitehead stated that access to digital devices has influenced what they now teach in class.

“There’s probably been an increase in experiences of receiving unsolicited explicit pictures in the last couple of years,” she added.

“We’ve started having more conversations about it, and we’re working with schools to figure out how they’re going to approach it.”

Children will be taught how to stay safe online

‘Really challenging’

However, she stated that it was not always easy for teachers in schools to discuss these topics with students.

“It’s really difficult and challenging, especially for teachers who don’t necessarily have these conversations in their own day-to-day lives,” Mrs Whitehead said.

“There needs to be a real emphasis on teacher training so that teachers can feel confident when teaching these topics.”

It was announced in January that parents would no longer be able to withdraw their children from sex education classes.

“We believe that all young people should have access to information that keeps them safe,” a Welsh government spokesman said.

“High-quality RSE will help increase all learners’ safety and well-being, as well as their understanding of safe, consensual, equitable, and positive relationships.”

He went on to say that it was created to “recognise learners’ needs and experiences,” and that “online safety, consent, and sexual health are all included in the code at developmentally appropriate stages and are handled sensitively.”

SourceBBC
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