Students and Pornography: Having the Right Conversation

Therapist Catherine Knibbs gives her three golden rules for ensuring an effective dialogue on the tough topic

The UK is in the midst of a pornography crisis, and the government is now cracking down on explicit content. These attempts at greater censorship have taken the form of the Digital Economy Bill. This is a piece of legislation, designed to target the UK’s electric communications infrastructure. One of the primary attributes of the bill is to restrict access to online pornography websites, making many sites increasingly difficult for their audience to access.

With such easy access to sexually explicit content, it’s no surprise that we have an increasing  number of young people sharing this type of content across the classroom. Following a survey conducted in 2016, of more than 1500 teachers, an estimated 62% of them claimed they knew that pupils were in fact sharing sexually explicit content, with 16% of people being around primary school age.

Earlier this year, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced potential changes to the UK curriculum to protect children against explicit online dangers. It might soon be compulsory for UK schools to include awareness lessons around the sexting, online pornography, and sexual harassment.

But instead of waiting for these changes to come into play, teachers need to start taking the initiative with students and young people to start effectively having these conversations.

What children view has a drastic effect on their brains and on their bodies. Pornography can cause their brains to struggle to comprehend more complex feelings within the brain. As a result of this, they can feel a sense of shock, confusion, arousal, and many other emotions all at once.

Leading providers of classroom management software, Impero Software have teamed up with Catherine Knibbs, Child/Adult Trauma therapist, who specialises in Cybertrauma, to explore the best ways to effectively start this difficult dialogue with students in the classroom.

Be cautious in approach

When approaching a child, specifically in a classroom setting, ensure that it is done so privately. Allow them to speak privately to create an open dialogue between yourself and your student. The pupil should be approached in a calm and understanding manor.

Establish Intent

It is quite simple for a child to stumble across a site with explicit material accidentally, especially is search filters are not in place. So be sure to establish whether or not this was the case, or if it was in fact purposeful viewing. The most effective way to do this and create an effective dialogue with the child is to ask open- ended questions.

Questions such as “Would you like to tell me what happened, how are you feeling about what happened” etc. gives them the opportunity for them to tell you in their own words, how they came across the content.

Consider Underlying Issues

Once you have established if the content was deliberately accessed, consider if there any underlying issues that have affected their answer.

If their viewing was accidental, then it is time to make them aware of the legalities around what they’ve seen. Make it clear to them that pornography is illegal for anyone under the age of 18. It might also be worth seeing if the child could benefit from any further conversation on the issue.

However, if the child’s access to the content was actually intentional, then you may need to be aware of other issues. Sexual abuse, child exploitation and other traumas are all signs for potential pornography addiction. Though this is a difficult area of discussion to have with kids, allow them to openly discuss with you what is going on in their personal lives. After this, it gives them the opportunity to make the best decisions for them and see what further action should be taken.

At this point, you should also mention the legalities surrounding the viewing of pornography, just as you would in any other scenarios. Make them aware of the implications to what they’ve viewed, but always remain open and non- critical to what they’re trying to say.

Having the right conversation might be a difficult task, but approaching it in a cautious way will open up a much-needed dialogue and help crack down on the epidemic.