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Children need educated on how to view porn, says Ulster Teachers' Union

By Jonny Bell

Published 14/09/2016

Jacqui Reid, the deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union
Jacqui Reid, the deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union

The Ulster Teachers' Union has called for children to be educated on pornography, to help divert them from addiction.

Jacquie Reid, deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, made the call after a Scottish college introduced pornography awareness classes.

She said: “It is naïve to believe that children won’t either deliberately or accidentally access pornographic images and videos via the internet – and sometimes these can be in the extreme end of the scale.

“As this isn’t a topic often discussed at home – though that is arguably where it should be raised – there could be an opportunity for education in school.

“Just last year the NSPCC revealed that one in 10 children feared they were addicted to porn so it is vital this area is addressed.

“With access to this material so widely available our children must be educated in how to view it – they must be media-savvy when it comes to pornographic material in the same way we educate them to be media-savvy when it comes to advertising, for instance.

"The more open and honest dialogue we can have with young people about sex – and that has to include porn given its ease of access - the better."

The union said introductory lessons needed to take place in primary schools to begin with but tailored to each specific age group. For example 10/11 year olds would be taught about body image with the explanation that celebrities in magazines would be airbrushed and their images not reflect reality.

"They need to be taught about what reality is because children could use those unrealistic images of celebrities as basis for forming relationships," she said.

The teacher described some schools in Northern Ireland as "excellent" in their sex education of pupils while others were restricted by their ethos. Although she would not go into details on which schools.

She added: "No matter the ethos of the school, children will be exposed to pornography and they need the support in place to deal with that."

Jacquie continued: “Children need to be taught, as form of media literacy, ‘how’ to view these images -images that can create unrealistic body expectations and often convey nothing about real relationships. They need to know how to read these images in context and judge them accordingly.

“They are surrounded by sexualised images every day – on TV, in magazines, on billboards - and they need the tools to understand what is real as opposed to acting.

 “This is not an easy thing to talk about – it will stir controversy and possibly backlash from some parents who themselves are uneasy with this whole area. But the facts speak for themselves; if children are going to be exposed to porn they need to have the understanding to judge it in context.

“Neither parents nor teachers can police children 24-7 in this age of mobile technology but at least if children have the knowledge they can make the right choices.

“However, once again, it is imperative that if teachers are to tackle these issues they receive the best possible training and support themselves in order to ensure they tackle these subjects from a position of security and confidence.”

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