Research Briefing Paper for Schools, Settings and Services
10. Public backs education for children about consent, ‘sexting’ and pornography – Survey
The survey was commissioned by the charity Plan International and carried out by Opinium, Friday 24th February 2017.
A large majority of Brits are in favour of children being taught about sexual consent, ‘sexting’ and the impact of pornography at school, research by the children’s charity Plan International UK has found.
The survey asked the public, a nationally representative sample of 2,007 adults (aged 18+), whether they backed the inclusion of the subjects as part of sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools.
There was strong support across the board for the inclusion of a number of topics in SRE. Support was generally slightly higher among parents, with 87 per cent supporting education on sexual consent, 83 per cent for violence and abuse in relationships, 77 per cent supporting education on the impact of pornography, and 73 per cent for ‘sexting’. Seven out of ten parents also backed the inclusion of education about different sexualities.
Plan International UK’s chief executive Tanya Barron said: “It’s clear that the UK public – including parents – feel that educating our children about issues such as sexual consent, different sexual orientations and the impact of pornography is important.
“Parents are simply demanding that their children’s education reflects the 21st century reality of their lives. Children today can be exposed to all sorts of sexual imagery on a daily basis which we know to be causing harm.
“Children themselves – girls in particular – are telling us that they feel they need improved, age-appropriate mandatory sex and relationships education to help them navigate these difficult issues.
“Such education is categorically not about exposing children to harmful or distressing material unnecessarily. Clearly such education would need to be appropriate to the age of the child, and we as a society need to discuss what that would look like.”
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, is Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee. She said:
“Digital mobile phones and 24-hour-a-day access to the online world are an everyday part of British childhood. As a result most children will have seen online pornography before they leave primary school and will have been asked for a sexual digital image of themselves by a friend before they leave secondary school. Parents and children know they need help and that is why I want compulsory lessons at school to help children better understand the signs of an abusive relationship, issues such as consent and the harm that is done by sexting and underage viewing of pornography.”
“Evidence given to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on sexual harassment in schools clearly indicates abusive relationships are spilling over from the offline world into everyday school life. Better relationship education can help children handle these pressures better.”
Research carried out by Plan International UK last year also found that reports of sexual offences in UK schools more than doubled between 2011 and 2015* – showing, the charity argues, the need for improved, statutory sex and relationships education.
This survey provides some initial direction for the future of Sexual and Relationship Education and highlights the changing needs and risks for children and young people living and learning in the 21st century environment.