Children as young as 11 to be taught about risks of sexting and pornography from September

Secondary school pupils will be taught about the dangers of sexting and pornography as part of new guidance set by the government.

The new guidelines, the first published by the government that focus on the potential dangers of being online, are part of the new curriculum for relationships and sex education.

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It states that secondary school children will be expected to know about the law surrounding sexting and ‘youth-produced sexual imagery’ as well as pornography, consent, sexuality and gender identity.

The new rules will be mandatory from September 2020, but schools are being encouraged to adopt the new curriculum from this September.

Keeping safe online

Teachers will be asked to address issues around online safety with pupils taught what the government call “rules and principles for keeping safe online”.

The guidance states this will include: “how to recognise risks, harmful content and contact, and how and to whom to report issues.”

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Children will also be taught how data is generated, collected and shared online with a particular emphasis on social media and how businesses may exploit their information.

The government also says teachers must teach with a focus on healthy relationships to help young people understand “acceptable behaviours” in relationships due to the potential of children being exposed to “harmful behaviours online...which may normalise violent sexual behaviours”.

Schools will still be able to be flexible as to when more sensitive topics are introduced to pupils, with the government not setting specific ages at which pupils must know about certain topics.

Pupils will be taught the law

Alongside sexual issues such as pornography and sexting, the new curriculum will also focus on marriage, violence against women and girls, abortion, sexuality, gender identity and substance abuse.

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It will also try to teach children about the law surrounding gang exploitation and violence, extremism and radicalisation, criminal exploitation, hate crime and female genital mutilation (FGM).

The issue of consent will be a crucial tenant in the new curriculum, with pupils expected to know “how and when consent can be withdrawn (in all contexts, including online)”.

Challenges and risks

Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds said life as a child in an online world presents opportunities but also challenges and risks.

He said: “Today’s children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and living their lives seamlessly on and offline.

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“This presents many positive and exciting opportunities, but also challenges and risks. In this environment, children and young people need to know how to be safe and healthy, and how to manage their academic, personal and social lives in a positive way.”

This story originally appeared on our sister site, the Yorkshire Evening Post.