Teachers today have seen massive changes in pupils’ attitudes and perceptions to relationships and sex. Recent news reports reinforce the notion that the popularity of smart phones has only served to amplify some of the issues, in particular the availability of accessing the web 24 hours a day. With total freedom and anonymity, this allows young people to view pornography at the touch of the screen. Shockingly, some male members of my class are more than happy to share with staff how much of this they actually take part in and how they get around their parents finding out.
More worryingly, I have seen a significant increase of incidents where young people, especially girls, are using phones to upload and provide a steady stream of suggestive photos to social networking sites. A symptom of our times? Maybe, but the fact is, this is now the world in which we live so how do we educate the next generation to move forward?
Society can't expect young people to be mature enough not to give in to temptation and access such materials, especially at an impressionable age. Curiosity and peer influences are heavy instigators, as are unrestricted websites that require a simple declaration of 'yes, I’m over 18'. We could also look deeper and maybe lay blame at the door of ‘celebrity culture’ and their quest to be buffed visions of perfection, which provide our students with unrealistic and unobtainable images. This is where the power of websites like Facebook and Instagram capitalise on this by notifying ‘likes’ or comments to an uploaded photo which gives young people a little reassuring message that someone thinks they’re attractive. This is particularly dangerous if privacy settings aren’t in place as it invites anyone to leave inappropriate messages. These are the types of issue that need to be addressed in order to help protect our students.
So in response to this, our teaching profession should be being encouraged to tackle these issues head on in an open and un-judgemental fashion; we understand the ramifications of being able to access these types of materials at the click of a mouse. We have great influence in guiding students and have the ability to lift the lid on the industry; its myths, dangers, addictive nature, and false representations. By demystifying the whole issue we can provide some common sense, in what is, for some, a taboo subject. In all of my experiences young people report that they find it very difficult to ask or talk to their parents about sex and relationships, proving that it’s more important than ever that we focus on these points.
So the message is how do we make a difference? Understandably, this is an emotive and complex subject to get to grips with. Lots of us are not receiving much in the way of additional training or ready to go resources that stand up against a teenage class. This is where these prepared lessons really help. They are very relevant and current; classes will relate to the mix of activities and familiar stimuli like campaigns by the Dove Company and the Lynx men’s deodorant adverts that students will have seen on TV. Below is a basic outline of how some of the issues raised in this blog directly link to the teaching resources in this set. The SRE lessons help make a complex subject easy; having these tried and tested materials to hand overcomes the headache of what to cover and how.
Lesson Plan 1 in the set helps establish what are ‘healthy relationships’ and seeks to dispel myths about sexual stereotyping and what both genders want from a sexual relationship.
Lesson Plan 2 and 3 in the set of resources set out to establish the law, online safety and the sexualising of young people.
Lesson 4 in the set, clarifies sexual rights/responsibilities and boundaries and clearly reinforces what sexual bullying is.