Inspiring young people to think critically about pornography, healthy relationships and body image online

Posted on 29 April 2019

Kate Edwards, a former teacher and current Education and Safeguarding Manager at Childnet, looks at our brand new resource for 11-14s, targeting online pornography, healthy relationships and body image online.

At Childnet, we have just launched new resources as part of our work in the UK Safer Internet Centre, covering the issues of pornography, healthy relationships and body image online.

As a former teacher, and as someone who is in schools regularly delivering online safety sessions to educators, young people, parents and carers, I know first-hand the importance of these topics and the impact they have on young people. We recently carried out research with 11-14 year olds and found that only 15% said they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships.

I also know that many teachers and schools may not feel properly equipped to deliver sessions on such complex issues. In our recent ‘PSHE and RSE in the digital age’ consultation we found that staff reported not having enough training or confidence to deliver the online aspects of PSHE and RSE, especially when it came to teaching about online pornography.

With age-verification for pornography being introduced in the UK in July 2019, it will be harder for young people to accidentally come across online pornography. However, we know that conversations with young people, parents and carers and teachers are paramount to giving children the information, support and skills that they need when it comes to issues such as pornography.

The Myth vs Reality Toolkit

Talking to young people about their lives online is vital and education has a major part to play here, we need to ensure all young people are given a platform to discuss the pressures they face online and have the skills to spot and understand the gap between perception and reality online. 

Our new toolkit, called ‘Myth vs reality’, is the second phase of our practical PSHE toolkit for secondary school educators. We have designed these resources as a great way to help spark discussion among young people about their experiences online.

Before creating this toolkit we spoke to young people about the issues that they thought were having the biggest impact on their lives and that they needed education on. This toolkit covers some of these key topics such as pornography, healthy relationships, and body image; looking at how all three of these topics connect together. We used this toolkit as an opportunity to explore key online myths and give teachers the tools they need to support their pupils to challenge the myths they are seeing and experiencing online.

What is in the toolkit

I’ve seen the impact that videos can have on the young people we work with, they spark discussion and helps them visualise how issues could affect them and other people their age. The toolkit uses a set of talking heads films as a spring board for discussion, and allows young people to discuss these complex issues in a safe and supportive environment which doesn’t require them to speak from personal experiences.  These films were directly shaped by young people and cover a range of opinions and experiences, allowing young people themselves to discuss, challenge and think critically about the ideas and thoughts that are presented to them.

Through discussion and activities, this toolkit not only challenges young people to reflect on young people’s online experiences, behaviour and unpick the truth from the online myths, but also ensures that they know who to go to and how to get support if aspects of their own online lives worry them. 

How educators can use the toolkit

This toolkit has been designed to suit the needs of different educators. Educators can be selective in the activities they use according to their PSHE timetable, whether they have a 40 minute PSHE lesson, or 15 minutes in tutor time, there are different aspects of this toolkit that can be used to fit into the allocated time.

We have produced guidance for educators within the toolkit to help schools prepare for using the resource, including guidance on handling disclosures and delivering the toolkit as part of staff training. There is also specific guidance for faith schools, with tips for handling sensitive and controversial topics, and extra information about informing parents and carers about the content of the lessons.

To help educators to deliver the Myth vs Reality toolkit we have also produced three videos discussing the key topics covered in the lessons, these videos can be viewed by educators prior to delivering the lessons to help build confidence and knowledge in those delivering the Myth vs Reality lessons, these videos are hosted here.

Access the full resources at childnet.com/myth-vs-reality

For press information visit  www.childnet.com/press

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