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Public wants schools to teach about porn and sexting

Three-quarters of Britons think that children should be taught about the impact of pornography at school, poll suggests

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Three-quarters of Britons think that children should be taught about the impact of pornography at school, poll suggests

A large majority of the UK public thinks children should be taught about pornography and sexting in schools, according to a new survey.

The findings are likely to fuel demands for sex and relationship education to be made compulsory in all schools in the UK.

The poll of 2,000 adults suggests that 75 per cent of Britons want children to be taught about the impact of pornography, while just 7 per cent are opposed to the move.

The survey, commissioned by the charity Plan International UK and carried out by Opinium, also reveals that 71 per cent want lessons discussing sexting.

And 86 per cent of those surveyed think sexual consent should be taught, while 82 per cent want lessons to cover violence and abuse in relationships.

Sexual imagery 'causing harm'

Plan International UK's chief executive, Tanya Barron, said: "It's clear that the UK public, including parents, feels that educating our children about issues such as sexual consent, different sexual orientations and the impact of pornography is important.

"Parents are simply demanding that their children's education reflects the 21st-century reality of their lives.

"Children today can be exposed to all sorts of sexual imagery on a daily basis, which we know to be causing harm.

"Children themselves – girls in particular – are telling us that they feel they need improved, age-appropriate mandatory sex and relationships education to help them navigate these difficult issues."

Under current rules, only state secondary schools under local authority control in England have to teach sex education. This leaves open a loophole for academies and free schools, meaning that they do not have to teach the subject.

Parents can opt to take their children out of these classes.

'Primary children view porn'

Conservative MP Maria Miller heads the Women and Equalities Committee and was one of five select committee chairs who last year wrote to education secretary Justine Greening to demand a change in policy.

She said: "Digital mobile phones and 24-hour-a-day access to the online world are an everyday part of British childhood.

"As a result, most children will have seen online pornography before they leave primary school and will have been asked for a sexual digital image of themselves by a friend before they leave secondary school.

"Parents and children know they need help, and that is why I want compulsory lessons at school to help children better understand the signs of an abusive relationship, issues such as consent and the harm that is done by sexting and underage viewing of pornography.

"Evidence given to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on sexual harassment in schools clearly indicates abusive relationships are spilling over from the offline world into everyday school life. Better relationship education can help children handle these pressures better."

Sexual harassment

The government has faced mounting pressure to improve the quality of sex-education lessons, and to make them compulsory, after several reports suggested that young people routinely faced sexual harassment and bullying.

Attempts to change the law through private members’ Bills in the Commons have so far been frustrated, but ministers are being lobbied to amend upcoming legislation.

Ms Greening has said she is looking at the issue, but no legislative change has yet been proposed.

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