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What porn education might look like at primary school

GUEST BLOG: In the week that Labour MP for Rotherham and Shadow Minister Sarah Champion launched her Dare2Care report in the House of Commons, PSHE advisory teacher Alice Hoyle maps out what age-appropriate porn education in primary school might look like – and she assures parents that it’s nothing too scary…

Age 4-6

Children need to know the basic differences between boys and girls; correct names of body parts; being a good friend (healthy relationships); who can we get help from if scared or upset about something. The NSPCC’s PANTS acronym should be taught here alongside the Pantosaurus song. We also need to be challenging gender stereotypes at every opportunity in this age range and throughout their primary years and beyond.

Age 6-8

Children need support to build individual resilience and self-confidence so they don’t feel they must follow the herd. They also need to explore healthy relationships and do some basic work around internet safety including; seeking help if you see something that worries or upsets you. Supportive work should also be undertaken with parents around using parental filters, and supporting parents to have conversations with their children about sex and relationships - including porn.

Age 9-11

The focus now should be around staying safe online. Children may start to have their own mobiles at this age. It should be made clear that there’s lots of ‘stuff for grownups’ online but that it is illegal for someone to show things meant for people over 18 to them.

They need to know that they can report inappropriate content and to be made aware of the CEOP report abuse button (on many of the social media sites that children use). They also need to know and identify people that can help them if they see anything online that worries or scares them. You don’t necessarily need to teach them just yet that porn sex in no way relates to real sex – but you do need to equip them with skills to analyse critically how media can distort reality. The media literacy programme Mediasmart can help with this.

Children may come across porn because they google words they may hear in the playground. Therefore, 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 on 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 you 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.

You don’t even need to use the word ‘pornography’ if you don’t want to with this age group, it’s about finding age appropriate routes to education.  

We also need to be clear that children’s brains are not ready to process some of the adult images they may come across, therefore they should be encouraged to not seek it out in the first place as it can potentially scare or upset them or give them strange ideas about what sex should be like. Children at this age are usually pretty responsive to ‘avoiding grown up stuff’ (but this obviously reduces in adolescence when they often seek to rush their transition to adulthood.)

Reinforcing the ‘trust your tummy’ message is really helpful here, that if something doesn’t feel safe or comfortable to them, then they should avoid it and seek more help if needed.

 The following resources may also be useful for this age-group:

To conclude, this road map 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 let’s hope the government will listen and make SRE statutory with an age and stage appropriate curriculum that meets the needs of 21st Century children.

*Alice Hoyle is a sex and relationships education teacher and trainer. She offers teachers and parents training in all aspects of sex and relationships education and can be contacted on alice.t.hoyle@gmail.com or via twitter @alicehoylePSHE.

Read more about Sarah Champion's Dare2Care report.

Read our interview with Sarah Champion.