Exposure to hardcore porn is harming pupils

2nd November 2012 at 00:00
Access to explicit images means even Year 7s are over-sexualised, reveals TES survey

Three-quarters of teachers believe that easy access to hardcore porn through smartphones, the internet and other media is having a damaging effect on pupils, a TES survey has found.

Teachers described pupils who "couldn't get to sleep without watching porn", girls as young as 11 dressing like "inflatable plastic dolls" and boys who developed "almost pathological" attitudes to sex.

They confirmed reports that children felt pressure to perform sex acts, using derogatory sexual language to each other and developing warped views of sex and relationships.

The survey, which found that two-thirds of teachers felt sex education was failing to keep up with advances in technology, was carried out as heads' union the NAHT called for lessons about the impact of pornography to be taught to children as young as 10.

Some of the 555 respondents said that parents were "naive" about the amount of porn children could access.

Teachers complained that viewing porn led pupils to become obsessed with body image and plastic surgery; more than half said they knew a pupil who wanted surgery to improve their looks.

They reported girls obsessed with make-up and tanning "to the detriment of study" and boys downing protein shakes in pursuit of the perfect body.

But teachers said the problem went beyond hardcore images: the hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey and TV series such as The Only Way is Essex were also blamed for the increased sexualisation of the under-16s.

One teacher commented: "Children from as young as Year 7 (P7) are becoming over-sexualised. They feel under lots of pressure to perform sexual acts."

Another teacher added: "Very overly sexualised language is becoming the norm when speaking to each other, and more so about each other." Others claimed watching porn had resulted in "awful" behaviour of boys towards young women.

Another complained of "constant inappropriate chat, and shocking knowledge of strange sexual practices from younger pupils".

Kenny Frederick, head of George Green's School in east London, said easy access to porn was a problem, even with strict controls on school computers.

"Our pupils have to hand in their phones at the beginning of the day so they are not viewing it in school, but you can't control what they do outside school," she said.

She said "sexting" - where pupils send photos of their body parts on their phones - was a particular issue of concern.

Lisa Handy, coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said that young people were accessing porn to get "answers to their questions".

"If pupils don't have access to good-quality sex education, they go to other sources to get answers to their questions," she said.

"If they access things that aren't designed to educate, it won't give them realistic information about what a healthy relationship looks like."

What proportion of your pupils aged 16 and under do you believe regularly see hardcore pornography?

75%+ - 9.6%

50-75% - 27.1%

25-50% - 33%

0-25% - 30.3%

Have you personally encountered a pupil who has expressed a wish to alter their image surgically?

Yes - 55.8%

No - 44.2%

Do you believe easy access to hardcore pornography is having damaging consequences on pupils in your school?

Yes - 74.6%

No - 25.4%

Do you feel sex education has kept up to date with advances in technology?

Yes - 19.3%

No - 67.3%

Don't know - 13.4%.

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