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Online porn dictates how young people behave in relationships

Better sex education needed to give pupils a healthy understanding of sex and how to protect themselves online

5 September 2013

Almost a third of secondary school pupils believe online pornography shows how young people have to behave in a relationship.

We are joining The Daily Telegraph's campaign for better sex education calling for the Government to update the sex education curriculum to reflect the digital era and give meaningful guidance about the issues young people face online every day.

Sign The Daily Telegraph petition for better sex education

Access to online pornography giving young people unhealthy attitudes towards sex

An NSPCC survey commissioned by The Daily Telegraph of 601 pupils aged 11 to 18 revealed:

  • 28 per cent think porn definitely "œinfluences how young people have to behave in a relationship."
    - A further third saying it "sometimes" affects how young people act when with their partner.
  • 72 per cent said porn should be talked about in sex education classes

These findings highlight how online porn is distorting school children's ideas and real-life experiences about what a good relationship looks like.

Claire Lilley, NSPCC policy advisor, says:
"It's natural for children to become curious about puberty and sex. If they are not learning what they need to at school or at home they will turn elsewhere, including to porn.

"What pornography teaches boys is that girls are for sexual gratification, whilst girls feel they have to look and perform like 'porn stars' to be liked and valued by boys. This makes children vulnerable to being forced or pressured into behaving sexually.

"We can't afford to be coy about sex education. Many children will have already been exposed to a vast amount of inappropriate, unrealistic and sometimes downright harmful pornography through the internet.

"This can warp their view of what is normal and acceptable sexual behaviour, how they treat others and how they expect to be treated."

To protect children from this damaging attitude, sex education must be updated to talk about sex in the context of healthy, caring relationships.

Sex education must be updated to reflect how children use the internet and behave online

The Government must also act to improve sex education in secondary schools by including guidance that reflects the way children and young people interact, communicate and consume information online.

In England and Wales, sex and relationships education is currently taught within personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons.

But the statutory sex and relationships guidance predates the widespread use of internet and social media, and does not mention:

  • internet safety
  • the challenges young people face regarding the ease and accessibility of online porn
  • the pressure to document their lives and relationships on social media
  • online bullying or sexting.

Children and young people must be given advice on how to deal with the issues they face online and how to protect and respect themselves and others.

Sign The Daily Telegraph petition for better sex education

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