‘Pornog­ra­phy aware­ness’ lessons for kids as young as 10

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose and Kay Smith

PRI­MARY pupils in Scot­land are be­ing given ‘porn aware­ness’ classes amid fears they are be­ing dam­aged by ex­po­sure to graphic im­ages on­line.

Chil­dren as young as ten are be­ing warned that down­load­ing sex­ual im­ages and videos can lead to ad­dic­tion, men­tal health prob­lems, abuse and re­venge porn.

The lessons have been cre­ated in re­sponse to fears that chil­dren are ac­cess­ing porn more eas­ily and at an ever-younger age – and that par­ents are fail­ing to stop them.

Cam­paign­ing char­ity the Re­ward Foun­da­tion is pi­lot­ing lessons at two schools – in Ed­in­burgh and La­nark­shire – with talks over sev­eral more to fol­low.

Lessons dis­cussing harm­ful as­pects of pornog­ra­phy are given to pri­mary seven pupils and var­i­ous sec­ondary school year groups.

The classes could soon be rolled out Scot­land-wide, with back­ing from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Last month, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion in­cluded ‘com­pul­sive sex­ual be­hav­iour’ as a men­tal dis­or­der for the first time.

But the Re­ward Foun­da­tion be­lieves there is too much fo­cus on sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, when 80 per cent of ad­dic­tions are be­lieved to be re­lated to porn.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Mary Sharpe said: ‘Chil­dren are be­ing ex­posed to hard­core in­ter­net pornog­ra­phy at an in­creas­ingly younger age.

‘Many have un­fil­tered ac­cess to the in­ter­net through smart­phones and tablets. It is the kind of ex­po­sure that has been linked to an in­crease in child-on-child sex­ual abuse and to men­tal health is­sues.’

She added: ‘Par­ents can use fil­ters on home com­put­ers but of­ten for­get, or chil­dren find ways around them.’

Sex ed­u­ca­tion is com­pul­sory in Eng­land but not Scot­land, where coun­cils and head­teach­ers are given greater free­dom over that part of the cur­ricu­lum.

How­ever, even where schools cover sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion, they ig­nore pornog­ra­phy, warned Ms Sharpe.

She said: ‘It’s the ele­phant in the room that ev­ery­one hopes will go away. It won’t and the kids are the ones suf­fer­ing the most.’

The lessons will not in­volve chil­dren be­ing shown any­thing ap­proach­ing porno­graphic im­ages, but will fo­cus on the po­ten­tial health and le­gal con­se­quences.

They look at how sex­ual im­ages af­fect the brain and lead to ad­dic­tion – and how spread­ing ex­plicit pic­tures with­out con­sent can lead to pros­e­cu­tion. The pi­lot is ex­pected to run un­til the end of Septem­ber.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: ‘The dan­gers of sex­u­ally ex­plicit on­line con­tent are well doc­u­mented. We would encourage schools to look at ways of help­ing pupils to avoid harm.’

Eileen Prior, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Con­nect, a char­ity rep­re­sent­ing par­ents in Scot­tish ed­u­ca­tion, said: ‘There will be many par­ents who will sup­port the ap­proaches out­lined by the Re­ward Foun­da­tion, but, equally, there will be par­ents con­cerned about the con­tent.’

The lessons will be led by teach­ers, but us­ing ma­te­rial pro­vided by the Re­ward Foun­da­tion.

Porn has been viewed on­line by 65 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds, 48 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds and 28 per cent of 11 to 12-year-olds, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 NSPCC re­port.

Dr Ethel Quayle, lec­turer in clin­i­cal and health psy­chol­ogy at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, said: ‘Very early ex­po­sure to pornog­ra­phy can be re­lated to el­e­vated use later in life.

‘We need to face up to any em­bar­rass­ment we feel about this is­sue and must – es­pe­cially with sex­ting – ap­pre­ci­ate the pres­sures young peo­ple are un­der to con­form.’

‘EX­PO­SURE’: Mary Sharpe, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Re­ward Foun­da­tion

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