Sexual Health Victoria (SHV- formerly Family Planning Victoria) strongly believes that comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is a key part in helping young people have positive health outcomes.
The SHV schools and community team deliver the Everybody Education program to school aged children so that they can better understand their own bodies, puberty, sex, consent, sexuality and relationships. If we are talking to young people about sex and relationships, we need to include discussions about the way that people might connect and explore sexuality online. Schools often provide lots of information on how to be safe when using technology says Educator, Anne Atcheson. Young people are often not sure on why they need to be safe, especially when it comes to sexual content available. From speaking with schools and educators SHV knows that children are not always clear on what to say or when around topics such as sexting, grooming or pornography.
It is possible to have age and developmentally appropriate conversations about sexual content online with any age student says SHV. Any conversation will be based on themes of consent and bodily autonomy. SHV are a trusted provider of safety education because we know how to have these conversations in a classroom. SHV help teachers, parents and carers to have these conversations too. Consent and digital privacy, is a feature of the new Australian Curriculum 9.0. Knowing how and when to talk about sexual content online is more important than ever. “Young people also need to develop fluency in digital media literacy and the social and emotional skills that will enable them to use technology to have respectful relationships and avoid harmful online contact and content.” states the online safety curriculum rationale., Australian Curriculum 9.0.
It is quite common that adults feel that by that time their child is in upper primary school that they have a greater technical proficiency when it comes to digital technology. Discussions about online behaviour can go in the ‘too hard’ basket. This has led to a great gap in understanding of the type of content their children might access and how they interact. Esafety has found in their Mind the Gap research that 55% of children communicated with someone they first met online yet only 34% of their parents were aware. 71% of 14 – 17-year-olds had seen sexual images online yet only 34% of parents were aware.
As with any sexuality education, it has better outcomes for students when delivered with a whole school approach says SHV. This means including everyone (teachers, parents, carers, students and community) across a student’s entire school experience (foundation-12). Students that are confident in talking about private body parts, understand protective behaviours and healthy relationships are more likely to report a problem online such as engaging in unwanted sexual contact or content.
Research shows that 48% of boys have seen pornography by age 13 and 48 % of girls by age 15. Children are likely to come across pornography either by accident or because they are curious. If young people know that they will get in trouble for accessing this material or they don’t have the language to explain what they have seen, then they will struggle to report of seek help if they need it. By de-stigmatising discussions around sex and sexuality, young people will have a context to understand what they might see and know their reporting avenues. Currently SHV are working with the eSafety Commissioner on a grant project designed to encourage schools to deliver more specific education around online sexual behaviour. This project aligns with our whole school approach as it targets leadership, teachers, parents, carers, and students.
SHV have a range of courses and resources to promote understanding of sexual content online and how this can be introduced as a topic in the classroom and at home. Including:
- The Doing ‘IT’ podcast was created to help teachers, parents and carers understand RSE. Episodes 53- 59 are produced with the support of the eSafety grants program. The series focuses on safety education and discussion sexual content online. Listen for expert discussion around the links to curriculum an well as episodes on grooming, sexting and pornography.
- Socialising Online: this 90 minute session is delivered by expert educators in person. The session is for students in grades 5-7 and allows students to reflect on ethical and legal practices around image sharing and provides a framework to contextualise pornography, should they see it. This is best delivered in conjunction with a comprehensive.
- RSE program: Professional Development SHV offers teacher professional development delivered in person or online. Get in touch or consider booking a masterclass on Online Sexual Behaviour for a whole staff session.
For further information visit: https://shvic.org.au/schools