Last month the National Association of Head Teachers controversially recommended that children should be taught about the impact of pornography as part of the sex education curriculum.
They pointed out that children have easy access to hardcore material on the internet and they need to be aware of its dangers and potential impact.
This week the position was clarified by Education Minister, Liz Truss, in answer to a parliamentary question. She said that schools are free to tackle the subject of pornography in an age appropriate fashion as part of PSHE lessons.
Although many children are not looking for pornography, pornography is looking for them. The sad fact is that the vast majority will encounter it as they grow up. Now we need to equip them with the skills they need to deal with the effects of our overtly sexualised world.
As a society we have failed to face up to the effects of pornography and it is our children who have become the casualties.
We are naïve if we think we can prevent children getting access to pornographic images. We can control computer access, television and smart phones at home but, as things stand, these measures will barely stem the tide of images and themes which come at them from sources we can’t control, such as friends and peers.
A recent study revealed that, whilst 50% of parents were confident they knew how to track what their child did online, 80% teenagers said they knew how to hide their online behaviour from their parents. Almost one in three British parents makes no effort at all to monitor their teenager's activity online.
It’s a sad indictment of our society today but it is far better that we teach children that pornography is not like real life and portrays a distorted view of sexuality and relationships than leave them to make sense of it alone.
However, introducing lessons to help children deal with the impact of pornography is merely a sticking plaster solution; we need to tackle the cause as well as the effect.
The government must implement an opt-in system to limit the risk of children accessing online sexual content as a matter of urgency.
The consultation into how best to protect children online which ran this summer was shorter than usual to allow a speedy response. However, despite the high number of submissions received, minsters have yet to respond or even reveal the majority view. The government is dragging its feet on this issue and a further generation of children will pay the price.