Is online pornography the new sex ed?

Are young people getting their sex education from pornography? The New Zealand Education Review Office thinks so - and most international experts agree. Should schools be doing more to address this?  

 

By the time they reach high school, 90% of students will own a smartphone - and that means instant internet access any time, anywhere. In Australia, teens will clock up 1200 hours a year on social media alone. And - age restrictions notwithstanding - that means exposure to sexually explicit content at an earlier age than ever before.

Age eight has become the “normal” age for first exposure, according to Internet educator Susan McLean of Cyber Safety Solutions.

The new ERO report, 'Promoting Wellbeing Through Sexuality Education', recommends further investigation into the impact of pornography on young people. Yet many schools are not addressing this issue alongside the use of digital technologies.

"The changing social context has profound implications for effective sexuality education. The ubiquity of smartphones, online and digital content, and the growing influence of social media means that a wide range of sexualised content, including exploitative and negative stereotypes, is readily accessible.”

The report authors stress that quality sexuality education must be more than teaching about biology. “It must give our children and young people the skills to discriminate this barrage of media messages, and to keep themselves safe."

Without the knowledge and skills to navigate 'context', young people are at risk of developing unhealthy attitudes toward sexuality, with increased risks to mental and physical wellbeing for themselves and others.

Risky behaviours

International research suggests that pornography is becoming an increasingly accepted and prevalent aspect of young people’s sexuality experiences. This can create unhealthy views about sex and relationships, and is leading young people to engage in physically and emotionally risky behaviours. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has highlighted many of these concerns.

"Despite their ability to effectively use online technologies,” the APS report notes, “children and young people still need protection from content that exploits their immaturity and could harm their development. Viewing highly sexualised or violent pornographic material has many risks for children’s psychological development and mental health, by potentially skewing their views of normality and acceptable behaviour at a crucial time of development."

The APS recommends a range of cyber safety strategies that aim to give children, parents and teachers safe and responsible ways of using and accessing online environments, ensuring online risks are managed and online experiences are safe and positive.

But education around digital wellbeing and citizenship is also an essential component of online safety.

Specifically, the APS has recommended that parents and schools provide young people with the knowledge to critique pornography and understand that the imagery has been constructed for a commercial purpose. It has also recommended that adequate sex education is provided that includes consideration of the role of pornography (among other factors) on sexual behaviours and decisions, how to make safe choices and what makes for healthy relationships.


Linewize is the internet management provider of choice for more than 2000 schools in Australia, New Zealand, US and UK. Like to learn more? Or interested in a demo? Click here

 


Topics: Screen time, screens in school, classroom management, digital citizenship, online pornography, digital learning, Duty of Care

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