Children’s charity Childnet launch new resources to address online pornography, healthy relationships and body image online.
[29 April 2019] Brand new resources have been launched by children’s charity Childnet, as part of its work in the UK Safer Internet Centre. The ‘Myth vs Reality’ toolkit covers the issues of pornography, healthy relationships and body image and is designed to be used with young people aged 11-14.
Whilst 80% of 11-14s surveyed by Childnet said it was important or extremely important for young people to discuss the issues related to online pornography, only 15% said they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships. After taking part in the activities, 77% of those surveyed felt they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships.
Following on from the huge success of the ‘Crossing the Line’ toolkit launched in 2016, which covered the issues of sexting, peer pressure, cyberbullying and self-esteem, this new toolkit includes a range of videos, quick activities and adaptable lesson plans based on the real experiences of young people.
The toolkit was created following focus groups conducted in five schools across the UK, where young people expressed the need for education about the portrayal of gender, bodies and relationships online with a particular need for education about the reality of online pornography.
One boy aged between 11 -13 in a focus group stated that: “the less educated people are about sex and relationships the more they are going to try and look for it.”
With Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) becoming statutory in all schools from September 2020, these resources provide schools with much needed practical, thoughtful and helpful resources to support them in teaching RSE. It also comes as the UK prepares to be the first country in the world to implement an age-verification system for online pornography.
The toolkit has been tested in seven schools across the UK where both teachers and pupils tried out the resources and provided feedback about the impact it had had in their school.
Research was conducted with young people aged 11-14 before they completed the toolkit, providing over 600 responses:
- 80% said it was important or extremely important for young people to discuss the issues related to online pornography, but only 15% said they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships
- Only 23 % said that they could recognise the difference between what is considered the ‘ideal’ body image online and the reality of a realistic and healthy body
- Only 23% said that they knew what makes a healthy relationship online
After taking part in the activities in the toolkit, young people aged 11-14 reported on the impact that it had, with over 450 responses. Schools saw an increase in confidence and knowledge of the issues in the toolkit:
- 90% said they now felt confident in supporting themselves and others with the issues related to online pornography
- 77% said they know where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships
- 69% said the lessons made them feel more confident in supporting my friends online when it came to issues around body image
- 59% felt confident in supporting themselves and others with unhealthy relationships online
Will Gardner OBE, CEO of Childnet and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said:
“The issues that affect young people online are changing and are complex. It is vital that all young people are given the opportunity to discuss the pressures they face online, and develop the skills to spot and understand the gap between perception and reality.
We have created this toolkit to support and empower educators in exploring these challenging and often interrelating topics with confidence, and to allow them to help their pupils develop the strategies they need to navigate the online world. It’s clear from those schools who have taken part that these resources are much needed and can have a real impact on the lives of young people.”
One secondary school teacher from Gravesend said:
“The pupils loved the lessons and one year 9 class asked me when the next lesson was. When I said it was a one off they said 'we need more lessons like this'. (…) Thank you so much for asking us to be part of the trial - I also learnt a lot.’
A year 9 pupil commenting on the healthy relationships activities said that: ‘This lesson helps people who are silently struggling. I learnt about how communication, respect, trust and boundaries are key.’
Another young person said, “I learnt what [pornography is] about and where I could go if I needed to talk about it or needed help and that you don't need to look a certain way for other people.’
For more information on how the toolkit can be used in education settings read this piece on ‘How teachers can use the ‘Myth vs Reality’ toolkit’
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About the PSHE Toolkit
‘Myth vs reality’ is phase two of our practical PSHE toolkit for educators of young people in secondary school settings. Its purpose is to help educators generate discussion among young people about their online experiences and challenge them to consider how real the content is that we see online.
Using a set of talking heads films as a spring board, the toolkit covers relevant topics such as body image, healthy relationships and pornography; considering how all three topics connect together. It will explore key online myths in relation to these topics and guide teachers in supporting their pupils to seek out the reality and challenge the myths they are seeing online.
Through discussion and activities, this toolkit not only challenges young people to reflect on their own experiences, their own behaviour and unpick the truth from the online myths, but also ensures that they know who to go to and how to get support when/if aspects of their online life worries them.
The toolkit is delivered as part of Childnet’s work in the UK Safer Internet Centre.
For more information about the Toolkit visit: www.childnet.com/resources/pshe-toolkit/myth-vs-reality
Childnet is a UK charity that empowers children, families and schools in the digital age, and its vision is to make the internet a great and safe place for children. Launching in 1995, it speaks to thousands of children, parents and teachers every year; creates innovative educational resources; and delivers projects to empower young people to have their say and take the lead in helping to create a better internet. It achieves a wider impact through influencing best practice and policy, both in the UK and internationally. As one of three charities in the UK Safer Internet Centre, Childnet coordinates Safer Internet Day, which reaches millions of UK children every year.
Research, piloting and focus groups
Seven schools took part in the pilot of the Myth vs Reality Toolkit, with pupils taking part in research both before and after completing the pornography, body image and healthy relationships lessons.
- 631 response to the pre-pilot survey (please note that some of these could be the same young person responding to a number of lessons)
- 467 response to the post-pilot survey (please note that some of these could be the same young person responding to a number of lessons)
This research looked at why young people thought these issues were important, what their base knowledge of these issues were and how this was impacted by taking part in the myth vs reality toolkit.
Three primary schools also reviewed the Myth vs Reality Toolkit, the activities were reviewed by KS2 teachers and activities which have been deemed appropriate for use with an upper KS2 group have been labelled with a star throughout the toolkit.
In 2017, five schools across the UK ran focus groups which informed the key messages behind the Myth vs Reality lesson plans and talking heads. The schools contributed to the key messages behind online pornography, healthy relationships online and online body image.