Education Solutions form one component out of three, within our Stage 1 Action Plan 2017-2020, detailed in The Porn Harms Kids Report - protecting our kids from online pornography harms is everyone's business. The Stage 1 Action Plan brings together the core components of digital protection buffers, and cross sector, nationwide educational strategies that are fundamentally supported by legislation, policy and national frameworks.
When people hear ‘education’, naturally, first thoughts are towards schools. However, education, from a public health perspective involves drawing in key stakeholders from a wide range of government, non-government, health professions, ‘people helping’ services and community organisations. Prevention of pornography harms needs to be addressed both within sectors, and collectively – with a common goal of breaking down the ‘silo’ situation that currently presents itself. If the key aim is to provide children and young people a safe online environment in which to thrive, all involved with young people – either directly or indirectly – have a role to play in ensuring this outcome. This therefore, includes the digital, legislation and policy solution sectors; and education directed towards three main areas: universal, selective and indicative.
Currently the harms of pornography are incorrectly presumed to be addressed under an online safety lens. Through this lens alone, pornography harms are not encompassed within the context of child development, more specially relating to a child’s healthy social, sexual, emotional, physical and relational development. Creating a robust education requires pairing the harms of exposure to pornography with a mandatory holistic sex education curriculum. This creates a buffer for when a child is exposed to pornography, enabling them to reflect on accurate information and discredit what is viewed. It also sets the harms of pornography in the correct space to discuss why its harmful from a critical porn analysis framework, and provide alternatives to children and young people for which lay the foundation for healthy development. This can be further broken down into age appropriate content; focusing on preventative behaviours for children within primary education; and critical porn analysis discourse for secondary, college, university and all professional and community bodies supporting children.
Effectively, this means educational strategies will be directed towards three main areas:
- Universal education efforts that address the whole population. This starts by changing the public discourse around pornography through wide-spread marketing campaigns that highlight the harms to children and young people; the links between pornography and attitudes and behaviours that support violence against women; the impacts on mental health, wellbeing and relationships. This initiative provides the platform to establish support for wide-spread social change, including through legislation and policies that inform the response of other sectors and stakeholders.
- Selective education efforts that focus on a specific sub-group with risk factors. This includes the five areas within education solutions that are best positioned to support families, children and young people:
- mental health, health and allied health professions
- family, child and youth services
- whole-school (p-12) and universities
- parents, carers, children and young people
- and sporting and community groups
- Indicated education efforts focused on identified groups already significantly harmed from exposure to pornography. The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse produced findings that seem to indicate that children who are harmed by violent pornography, are then expressing tendencies to perpetuate those harms upon others. This results in the need for inclusion of sexual health policies for groups of children and young people vulnerable to becoming sexually abusive; psychology and counselling services to support those harmed directly or indirectly from resulting abuse or exploitation factors; and the development of service delivery that supports restorative justice responses.
Schools provide one opportunity to implement solutions within a much wider education sector. Thorough education programs around holistic healthy sexuality, healthy relationships and the prevention of sexual harms, are one avenue to address pornography. There also exists opportunity to extend cybersafety education; media literacy, social sciences and humanities; and incorporate informed education about pornography within each subject stream. With a public education campaign bringing the conversation mainstream, an education and consultation piece between parents and schools ensures that parents are enrolled in the necessity of this education, and supportive of schools rolling out comprehensive education measures.
Informed education includes an understanding of a critical porn analysis response, implemented through utilising the lens of our public health approach, with research commissioned to measure outcomes and change.
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