Train us to deliver lessons on dangers of pornography, plead teachers

'For many young people, pornography now precedes sex'

Education Editor

A rising tide of pornography is engulfing children from the age of eight on the internet, a teachers’ conference heard today.

“For many young people, pornography now precedes sex and many will have seen hundreds of strangers having sex before they have any sexual contact with another person,” Helen Porter, from St Gabriel’s school in Newbury, Berkshire, told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Liverpool.

Delegates demanded that teachers should receive specialist training in how to deliver lessons warning of the dangers of pornography as a result.

Mrs Porter cited research from the London School of Economics which showed that 90 per cent of eight to 16-year-olds had at some stage accessed pornography on the internet – many without meaning to..

“I know of a Berkshire school girl in year nine who was persuaded to perform in an amateur pornographic video at the age of 13,” she added. “As a teacher of teenage girls and the mother of a teenage daughter, I am absolutely sickened by that thought  …

“Unfortunately, younger children can stumble upon wildly inappropriate material by entering an innocent word into a search engine.

“Young people are unaware of the inevitable consequences of their sexual behaviour.  A 15-year-old girl agreed to pose naked for her 18-year-old boy friend.  He took a few photos and they enjoyed looking at them together – just a bit of harmless fun.  A month later, they split up and he was feeling low so he decided to email the photos to friends. 

“You guessed it – they went viral and he ended up in court for distributing child pornography.”

James Shlackman, from Crosfields School, Reading, said the imagery available on the internet had changed significantly.

“10 to 15 years ago, the sort of pornography that was available online was the sort of thing you could find in a top-shelf magazine. 

“Today it is very different. Much of it is aggressive, some of it bordering on abusive.  It doesn’t show normal sexual behaviour but there is so much of it that to young people, without the benefit of experience, it appears to be normal.

“Young people today are being exposed to dangerously unrealistic portrayals of sex that, if emulated, may end up damaging the relationships they form both now and in later life.”

Alison Sherratt, a former president of ATL and primary school teacher from Bradford, added: “Very many of our youngest children are exposed to a wide variety of images of a pornographic nature.”

She said primary school pupils were engaging in  “a more explicit vocabulary and type of games”.

“We need to send signals to our colleagues in every staff room so they can tackle the subject openly and bravely to help our children retain their naïve and joyous childhoods,” she added.

Teachers were also concerned over the practice of “sexting” – sending sexually explicit photographs of fellow pupils which have often been mocked via mobile telephones or email – which, some said, could take place in school.

They want guidelines as to how they react to this.

Another teacher, Niamh Sweeney, from Cambridgeshire, said books like Fifty Shades of Grey gave a distorted picture of sexual relationships.

“It is not an erotic book,” she said.  “It is 500 pages of a destructive and violent  and sustained relationship where a young girl agrees to be hurt while not enjoying sex because she knows he likes it.”

Mrs Porter said the union’s leadership should investigate ways of developing “age appropriate material” for use in lessons on sex and relationships education to combat the problem.

“It is crucial that youngsters develop an understanding of sex in the media and pornography so they can recognise the abnormal nature of these sexual expectations (aroused by the internet) and appreciate the dangers of accepting the values portrayed by the sexualised media,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, delegates at the conference unanimously passed an emergency motion opposing the Government’s plans to scrap annual rises for teachers moving up the salary scale from this September – and introduce performance related pay instead.

They warned the move would reduce living standards and put the brightest and best recruits off from entering the profession.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence