2 May 2019
By Rebecca Avery

Childnet launch new KS3 resources to address online pornography, healthy relationships and body image online

Brand new resources have been launched by children’s charity Childnet, as part of its work in the UK Safer Internet Centre. The ‘Myth vs Reality’ toolkit covers the issues of pornography, healthy relationships and body image and is designed to be used with young people aged 11-14.

Whilst 80% of 11-14s surveyed by Childnet 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. After taking part in the activities, 77% of those surveyed felt they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships.

Following on from the huge success of the ‘Crossing the Line’ toolkit launched in 2016, which covered the issues of sexting, peer pressure, cyberbullying and self-esteem, this new toolkit includes a range of videos, quick activities and adaptable lesson plans based on the real experiences of young people.

With Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) becoming statutory in all schools from September 2020, these resources provide schools with  practical, thoughtful and helpful resources to support them in teaching RSE. It also comes as the UK prepares to be the first country in the world to implement an age-verification system for online pornography.

The toolkit has been tested in seven schools across the UK, including locally in Kent, where both teachers and pupils tried out the resources and provided feedback about the impact it had had in their school.

Research was conducted with young people aged 11-14 before they completed the toolkit, providing over 600 responses:

  • 80% said it was important or extremely important for young people to discuss the issues related to online pornography, but only 15% said they knew where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships
  • Only 23 % 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
  • Only 23% said that they knew what makes a healthy relationship online

After taking part in the activities in the toolkit, young people aged 11-14 reported on the impact that it had, with over 450 responses. Schools saw an increase in confidence and knowledge of the issues in the toolkit:

  • 90% said they now felt confident in supporting themselves and others with the issues related to online pornography
  • 77% said they know where to go to find reliable information about sex and relationships
  • 69% said the lessons made them feel more confident in supporting my friends online when it came to issues around body image
  • 59% felt confident in supporting themselves and others with unhealthy relationships online

Will Gardner OBE, CEO of Childnet and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said:

The issues that affect young people online are changing and are complex. It is vital that all young people are given the opportunity to discuss the pressures they face online, and develop the skills to spot and understand the gap between perception and reality. 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.”

One secondary school teacher said that “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 learnt a lot.’

A year 9 pupil commenting on the healthy relationships activities said that ‘This lesson helps people who are silently struggling. I learnt about how communication, respect, trust and boundaries are key.’ Another young person said, “I learnt what [pornography is] about and where I could go if I needed to talk about it or needed help and that you don't need to look a certain way for other people.’

Childnet have also published a useful blog post with additional information on how the toolkit can be used in education settings.