Children’s charity Childnet have released a toolkit to help give 11–14-year-olds reliable information about online pornography, healthy relationships, and body image online.
The toolkit, entitled ‘Myth vs Reality’, was created following a series of focus groups conducted in five schools across the UK. Young people participating in the groups expressed the need for education about the portrayal of gender, bodies and relationships online, with a particular need for education about the reality of online pornography.
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Myth vs Reality is part of Childnet’s work with the UK Safer Internet Centre, and includes a range of videos, quick activities and adaptable lesson plans based on the real experiences of young people. It has been tested across seven schools in the UK where both teachers and pupils tried out the resources and provided feedback on their impact.
One secondary school teacher from Gravesend said: “The pupils loved the lessons, and one year 9 class asked me when the next lesson was. When I said it was a one-off they said ‘we need more lessons like this’.
“Thank you so much for asking us to be part of the trial – I also learned a lot.”
Childnet surveyed over 600 11–14-year-olds on the subject of online relationships, and while 80% said it was important or extremely important for young people to discuss the issues related to online pornography, only 15% said they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships.
We have created this toolkit to support and empower educators in exploring these challenging and often interrelating topics with confidence, and to allow them to help their pupils develop the strategies they need to navigate the online world.
– Will Gardner, Childnet & UK Safer Internet Centre
However, after taking part in the Myth vs Reality activities, 77% said they felt they knew where to go to find reliable information.
Relationship and sex education (RSE) will be statutory in all schools from September 2020, and the Childnet resources aim to provide schools with practical resources to help them teach these issues.
The survey also revealed more telling statistics about the importance of RSE education, especially related to online content. For instance, only 23% of 11–14-year-olds said that they could recognise the difference between what is considered the ‘ideal’ body image online, and the reality of a realistic and healthy body.
After taking part in the toolkit activities, a survey of over 450 11–14-year-olds revealed that 90% now felt confident in supporting themselves and others with issues related to online pornography, and 69% said the lessons made them feel more confident in supporting friends online when it came to issues around body image.
Will Gardner OBE, CEO of Childnet and director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “We have created this toolkit to support and empower educators in exploring these challenging and often interrelating topics with confidence, and to allow them to help their pupils develop the strategies they need to navigate the online world.
“It’s clear from those schools who have taken part that these resources are much needed and can have a real impact on the lives of young people.”
The toolkit can be found online at https://www.childnet.com/resources/pshe-toolkit/myth-vs-reality