The minister who thinks that lessons in porn are acceptable: MP says schools are free to teach children despite impact of images on youngsters

Matt Chorley – Daily Mail Nov 28, 2012

Schools are free to give lessons in pornography, an education minister has admitted despite concerns about the impact of hardcore images on children.

Campaigners have warned that growing numbers of youngsters are hooked on graphic films found online.

While lessons on pornography would focus on the impact and dangers of graphic images online, they could backfire by alerting children to what can be easily accessed on the internet.

David Cameron is preparing to make it easier for parents to block online porn from new computers.

But Liz Truss insisted lessons in porn can form part of ‘age appropriate’ studies.

Some teaching unions have called for students to be taught about porn from the age of 10.

But an alarming study last month revealed children as young as 11 are becoming addicted to internet pornography giving them ‘unrealistic expectations’ of sex.

Counsellors at Childline also report a surge in calls from youngsters traumatised after seeing adult images online.

The intervention by Miss Truss comes a month after a teaching union called for students to be taught porn from the age of 10, so that they know about the dangers and can protect themselves from stumbling across adult images.

The green light from a minister could encourage more schools to institute lessons in pornography – a development which will alarm many parents.

She said: ‘The Government wants all young people to have high quality, age appropriate sex and relationships education.

‘The current non-statutory programmes of study for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, which include sex and relationship education, can provide opportunities for schools to teach about pornography.’

PSHE, which includes sex and relationships education, is not compulsory in England unlike other parts of the UK.

Last night Norman Wells, from pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: ‘Bringing pornography into the classroom will introduce sexual images to many children who have not encountered them before and will arouse in some pupils a curiosity to search out more images for themselves. It will not solve anything and will only compound the problem.

‘Most parents would far rather the government introduce an opt-in system to limit the risk of their children accessing sexual images online in the first place than add pornography to the school curriculum.

‘Talking freely and openly about sexual matters with young children in the classroom has the potential to break down their natural sense of reserve and encourage casual attitudes towards sex.

‘If we want children to view sexual intimacy as something valuable, special and worthy of respect, we need to treat it with modesty and restraint. To give lessons on pornography is to play with fire.’

While lessons on pornography would focus on the impact and dangers of graphic images online, they could backfire by alerting children to what can be easily accessed on the internet.

David Cameron is ready to take action to curb online porn. Anyone buying a new computer or signing up with a new internet service provider will be asked whether they have children when they log on for the first time.

Those answering ‘yes’ will automatically be taken through the process of installing anti-pornography filters and a series of questions about how stringent they want restrictions to be.

It follows a series of alarming cases of boys watching porn before attacking other children

In June this year a 14-year-old boy who raped a nine-year-old girl after watching hard-core pornography online was spared jail.

His lawyer said the boy, who was just 12 at the time of the attack, wanted to feel grown up.

ean Templeton, defending the boy, said: ‘There is a real risk that young people are growing up with a skewed view of what sex is and sexual activity.

Sean Templeton, defending the boy, said: ‘There is a real risk that young people are growing up with a skewed view of what sex is and sexual activity.’

Ms Truss was responding to a parliamentary question from Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, who said how children find out about pornography was a matter for parents not teachers.

‘This is a matter for parents to make a judgement on,’ Mr Rosindell said. ‘I don’t think it is a matter for school teachers.

‘There is a general concern across the country that these things are becoming far too accessible for young people and the moral side of this needs to be upheld.

‘Guidance on young people is something that is something we need to ensure is there, rather than let this sort of thing become too prevalent.’

The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on online porn to protect children. Over-18s would only be able to access adult images if they opt in following a strict age verification check.

Last week the deputy children’s commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said the impact of online porn was at least partly to blame for almost a half of cases of gang-based sex attacks.

She said the easy access of porn online skewed young people’s views about what is ‘acceptable, required or expected’ of sex, and could leave boys seeing girls as ‘objects to be used and abused’.

Last month the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) called for porn to be taught in lessons from the age of 10.

Policy adviser Sion Humphreys said: ‘Children are growing up in an overtly sexualised world.

‘That includes easy access to porn and they need the skills to deal with it.’

The union called for teaching about the impact of pornography to be included ‘as part of a statutory Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) programme’.

‘Evidence suggests 10 isn’t too young to start lessons on pornography, but it wouldn’t be a full on lesson but the grounding would be laid down.’

The National Union of Teachers said referring to issues of porn in lessons is a step too far and that schools should only talk about it if asked by students.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a member of the Commons select committee, said any lessons on pornography would have to be handled sensitively.

‘It is much better for schools to take control of this issue rather than simply allow children to find images on their phones in the playground.

‘It would be naive to think that you could just prevent children getting access to these images.’

Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s Sexual Abuse programme said: ‘It’s a good thing for children to learn that porn does not mirror real-life and gives a distorted view of sex.

‘As long as this is explained in an age-appropriate way, with the consent of parents where necessary, it can help children form healthy relationships based on care and respect.’

Last night a spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘Obviously the minister was saying that PSHE could give schools a chance to teach children about the dangers of pornography – something which is a growing problem in our schools that parents are rightly very concerned about.’