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Schools should teach pupils dangers of porn, insists teaching union

By Luke Barnes

Published 15/09/2016

Porn warning: Peter Wanless of the NSPCC
Porn warning: Peter Wanless of the NSPCC

Lessons on the dangers of pornography should be taught in schools to help combat addiction, according to new proposals by the Ulster Teachers' Union.

Jacquie Reid, deputy general secretary, said the widespread availability of porn and sexualised imagery online meant that it was imperative that teachers educate children to be media-savvy.

She said: "It is naive to believe children won't deliberately or accidentally access pornographic images via the internet - and sometimes these can be in the extreme end of the scale.

"As it isn't a topic often discussed at home - though arguably it should be - there could be an opportunity for education in school.

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

Reid was speaking at Edinburgh's Fettes College, former school of Tony Blair, which has its own 'porn awareness' classes.

She acknowledged that porn was not an easy subject to broach and any introduction of similar classes in Northern Ireland was likely to cause parental backlash.

But she said: "The facts speak for themselves. 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.

Earlier this year a study by the NSPCC found 94% of children had been exposed to online pornography by the age of 14. It said repeated viewing desensitised children and made them want to copy what they've seen.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "A generation of children are in danger of being stripped of their childhoods at a young age by stumbling across extreme and violent porn online.

"We need to enhance their awareness and critical understanding of content they either seek or stumble across - and ensure sex is placed in the context of loving, respectful relationships based on mutual consent."

The Ulster Teachers' Union said that while introductory lessons would need to start as early as primary school they would be tailored to each age group.

Jacquie Reid said while some Northern Ireland schools had excellent sex education classes, others were restricted by their ethos.

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