Friday 30 September 2016

'Schools should teach dangers of online porn'

Call to update sex education classes for children

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

The internet has made pornography more easily accessible than in the past
The internet has made pornography more easily accessible than in the past

Schoolchildren as young as seven should be taught about the dangers of online pornography - with boys as young as 11 now actively involved in inappropriate sexual behaviour.

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Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) says a programme which teaches pupils about the perils of easily accessible porn should now form part of an updated schools sex education programme.

It follows the latest shock survey which showed Irish teenagers have the fourth highest sexting rate in Europe.

Cliona Sadlier, strategic and programmes executive of the RCNI, also warned that children finding pornographic images or video - procured by their parents in the family home - is a cause of growing concern.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has also confirmed the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) is to provide more support for schools in making pupils aware of the risks associated with pornography.

Ms Sadlier stressed that in the past children might have stumbled upon sexually explicit magazines hidden under a bed in the family home.

But now they are coming across even more graphic material that a parent may have downloaded on to a tablet or smartphone. Ms Sadlier says this is the kind of content which can cause huge damage to the emotional and sexual development of children.

Pornography, she says, always presents participants as "up for it", while sexual consent is never discussed.

"There are parents who are watching pornographic content that is left around the home. In the past it might be locked away somewhere, but some people are not hiding this kind of material from their children. Pornography is becoming normalised in some homes."

She says there is an urgent need to build a culture of zero tolerance of sexual violence in schools, as well as developing specific polices on sexual harassment. In most cases, younger pupils are not actively seeking out pornographic material, but they may come across highly unsuitable content on social media on devices such as mobile phones.

"The reality is we must engage with children very early and talk about such issues in a school setting. We need to give them the critical capacity to engage in a healthy way with a world that is bombarding them with messages about sex. If 17-year-old boys are being taught that a woman's body is a sexual object - we have to counter that in the context of accepting there is so much pornography in our culture."

But she stressed any schools instruction programme should be conducted in an age-appropriate manner.

"At a young age, you're not going to talk to children about pornography per se, but we should be talking to them about the messaging."

A Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed the Stay Safe programme for primary schools is currently being updated.

Sunday Independent

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