In Depth

Should schools teach pupils about porn and sexting?

Charity says children are leading the call for 21st-century sex education

Children should learn about "21st-century" aspects of sexuality such as internet pornography and sexting during school sex education lessons, a children's rights charity has said.

Sex and relationship education is currently mandatory in local authority maintained secondary schools, but some education groups argue that the current curriculum does not cover enough ground and is particularly scanty on key issues of the internet age.

Plan International UK's chief executive, Tanya Barron, told The Guardian that the charity's research indicated that pupils were at the forefront of the demand for sex education that was relevant to their experiences.

"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," she said.

Sexual health charities and education groups have been calling for education about the online sexual landscape for years.

In 2013, a report commissioned by the Office of the Children's Commissioner warned that urgent action was needed to bring sex education into the 21st century.

"Just a few clicks away on any mobile phone, on any tablet for example, children can find really graphic depictions of extreme and violent sexual acts," deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz told the BBC at the time.

Last year, five select committees wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening to demand updated legislation. But despite mounting support among MPs "attempts to change the law through private members' bills in the Commons have so far been frustrated", says The Independent.

A poll conducted by Plan International UK indicates that the tide of public opinion is firmly in favour of change. Three-quarters of respondents agree that pornography should be covered in sex education classes, while only seven per cent disagree.

Barron welcomed the findings, saying: "Parents are simply demanding that their children's education reflects the 21st-century reality of their lives."

Greening has said she is "looking at the issue", says the BBC, but so far no changes have been proposed by the government.

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