Porn is here and it’s here to stay. In order to equip students for a healthy, fulfilling life in the 21st century, schools must address porn’s influence.
Schools can play a significant role in addressing the influence of pornography for a range of reasons:
- Research identifies schools as an effective site for health promotion and a priority site for violence prevention education1.
- Many schools are familiar with health promotion frameworks and are already engaged in related and complementary work, such as programs on respectful relationships, cybersafety, violence prevention and sexuality education.
- Schools contribute significantly to students’ sexuality education, a context in which many of pornography’s messages – about, for example, gender, body image, consent and sexual safety – can be appropriately addressed.
- Schools can engage students about the influence of explicit sexual imagery as part of a comprehensive curriculum, with the input of highly skilled professionals and access to quality resources.
- Schools can develop partnerships with parents and community organisations to address these issues.
- Principals and teachers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to protect students from any harm that should have reasonably been foreseen, including harms that may be encountered within the online learning environment,2 and foreseeable harms now include the impact of explicit sexual imagery.
- Increasingly, schools are required to respond to incidents related to explicit sexual imagery – including incidents in which sexual imagery of students has been circulated – that can affect student wellbeing and school engagement, as well as potentially having legal consequences.
- Schools can themselves be sites of young people’s exposure to explicit sexual imagery.
- Most young people’s exposure to explicit sexual imagery occurs via technology. It is now common practice in many schools (and therefore homes) for individual students to own internet-enabled laptop computers or tablets, and in some instances this is compulsory. While there are many arguments for the value of student access to technology, schools’ promotion of the types of technology through which young people are exposed to pornography brings accompanying responsibilities to limit young people’s exposure and to support parents to manage this technology at home.
1 VicHealth 2007, Preventing violence before it occurs: A framework and background paper to guide the primary prevention of violence against women in Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Carlton, p.57.
2 Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Schools and cybersafety, DEECD, 2014, viewed 29 January 2014, www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/bullystoppers/Pages/princyber.aspx