What ‘porn education’ before puberty might look like.


Teach children about pornography before puberty has been published today. Before the moral panic sets in, here is what ‘porn education’ before puberty might look like.
Age 4-6
Basic differences between boys and girls;  challenging gender stereotypes at every opportunity; correct names of body parts; being a good friend (healthy relationships), who can we get help from if scared or upset about something?  Pantosaurus and NSPCC pants campaign needs to be taught here.
Age 6-8
Carry on building on the work from 4-6 PLUS more work on challenging gender stereotypes; building individual resilience and self confidence so children don’t feel they have to follow the herd all the time; more work on healthy relationships;  basic work around internet safety – seeking help if you see something that worries or upsets you. (Alongside supportive work with parents around parental filters, and supporting parents to have conversations with their children about sex and relationships including porn).
Age 9-11
Carry on building on all the work from 4-8 (particularly around healthy relationships, gender stuff and building resilience)  PLUS much more work on staying safe online. Children may start to have their own mobiles at this age.
At this age we should be clear that there is lots of “stuff for grownups” (adult content) online but that it is illegal for someone to show things meant for people over 18 to them. If anyone tries to show them something or to share pictures of themselves online then they need to know how to report it. Children need to know about the CEOP report abuse button (on many of the social media sites that children use) and that if they ever see anything online that worries or scares them there is always someone able to help them (help them identify who those people are). We also need to teach them to be ferociously media critical. They need to know about photoshopping; that “the fast and the furious” movies about high speed car chases would be useless to learn how to drive a car (!) and likewise much of what they see online probably won’t actually reflect how they live in the real world. You don’t need to teach them at all this age that porn sex in no way relates to real sex – but you need to equip them with skills to critically analyse how media can distort reality. The Mediasmart resources can help with this.
We all need to be aware that fewer children are accessing inappropriate material than we think and that they report less harm than we might expect however we need to teach them to recognize that some of the stuff online may scare or upset them because their brains are not ready to process it, so self care would be not to seek it out in the first place (same rule goes for getting offline if it gets too much).  Personally I suspect children may come across porn because they are desperate to seek answers to words they may hear in the playground- ‘cock’ ‘boobs’ ‘cum’ etc. and so they google them…… . Although you also need to be aware they may also innocently come across porn if filters not set up correctly because if you google image search ‘three little pigs’ without safe search turned on- you don’t just get innocent nursery rhymes!!!
Really high quality age appropriate sex ed is vital at this age range. Children and young people need to have a space where all their questions about sex and relationships can be answered openly and honestly. They will want and need discussions of puberty and bodily changes, crushes and romantic relationships, what sex is and why people have it. They need reassurance that masturbation is a normal part of growing up for many people that teaches about your body and what feels good (although being sensitive to the fact that some cultures do frown upon it). They also need to know that it is something that is done in private and that it is probably best to use your imagination rather than “sexy materials” until you are old and mature enough to make an active choice to seek/use “sexy materials” or not (note I haven’t even said the word pornography- you don’t have too – its about finding age appropriate routes to education).  I quite like the Sense CD’s Sex and Relationship DVD which has some nice cartoon clips about what masturbation and fantasy and internet porn is which would be suitable for Y6/Y7 age range- 11-12.
 This age range also need good sex ed resources for their age group where they can access information on their own. There are hundreds of sex ed books parents can order (I quite like Sex is a funny word and let’s talk about sex or there is Not your mum or amaze.org which are aimed at the preteen age range). Parents also need a ton of support here (Sadly this support is often lacking but parents local to Bath/Bristol get in touch as I am starting to offer some supportive discussion and training sessions on this stuff!)
N.B For the pubertal 11-14’s I would continue to build on all of the work described above, going into more detail about sex, puberty, media literacy etc.  For the 14plus age range I always think @Bishtrainings Planet Porn resource and Website are just fab! For all of this work I recommend looking at Brooks Sexual Behaviors Traffic light tool as it gives you a really clear idea about what behaviours come at what age and where the red and amber flags are to certain sexual behaviours.
Hope this clarifies somewhat what Porn Education might look like for the under 11’s. It is not anything too terrifying and it can most definitely be done sensitively and age appropriately! Well done to Sarah Champion for saying what needed to be said. Now lets hope the government will listen and make SRE statutory with an age and stage appropriate curriculum that meets the needs of 21st Century Children.
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