High school students should be taught about pornography and sexual violence, report says

High school students should be taught about pornography and sexual violence so they learn what is healthy, the Education Review Office has said in a report.

Promoting wellbeing through sexuality education is the agency’s first review of sex education in schools in 11 years.

It says sex education has not kept pace with technological changes in the last decade.

"Without the knowledge and skills to navigate this context, young people are at risk of developing unhealthy attitudes toward sexuality, increasing risks to mental and physical wellbeing for themselves and others," it said.

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The report highlighted an upcoming survey from the Light Project which suggests many young people in New Zealand are learning about sex through pornography, which "rarely depicts meaningful consent, and often includes coercion and/or violence, particularly towards girls and women, as a normal part of sexual encounters".

"This creates unhealthy views about sex and relationships, and is leading young people to engage in physically and emotionally risky behaviours. It is therefore of some concern that ERO found pornography was one of the least well covered aspects of sexuality education. ERO therefore recommends further investigation into the impact of pornography on young people."

The report also highlighted several high-profile news stories to highlight the risks to young people of not understanding consent.

"There have been a number of high-profile issues related to sexuality, including the Roast Busters scandal, and the protests sparked by misogynistic language used by some students on social media, as well as the broader #MeToo movement with its focus on exposing the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault."

"These show both the risks young people face when a healthy understanding of consent is not widely held, and the increasing demand from school students for effective sexuality education to address these issues."

Fewer than half of New Zealand high schools were covering pornography and sexual violence with the report recommending 12 to 15 hours of sexuality education for students in years nine and 10.

Only a few schools were found to meet this threshold, the report said.

Sex education is compulsory for students from years one to 10 and is one of one of seven "key learning areas" in the health and PE curriculum.

The ERO also said school boards should provide more support for sexually and gender-diverse students.

The review recommended schools "proactively consider how to promote an inclusive and welcoming environment for sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students, including reviewing uniform and bathroom options".

It’s been found most schools are failing to keep pace with social and technological changes when it comes to sex ed. Source: 1 NEWS