Words: Charlotte Philby

My abiding memory of formal sex education is at school aged nine, being shown a video of a particularly hairy couple playing volley-ball, naked, on a misty British beach. To say it failed to instil a real understanding of the complexities of love, sex and relationships is something of an understatement.

Today, childhood is arguably shorter than it ever was, and children more exposed to information from an earlier age – for better or worse. So in an age of online porn, with reports claiming that by the age of 14, as much as 45 per cent of children are watching explicit porn on the internet; of personal image sharing; of dating websites like mylol.com – aimed, incredibly, at 13-18 year olds – parents and schools surely need to be intervening earlier than ever, to talk through positive values, consent, and so many other of the issues surrounding sexuality; issues way beyond the nuts and bolts of a freeze-frame naked montage.

So when is the right time to introduce children to the birds and the bees? And where to start?

Sarah Champion MP told Motherland: “These days the internet is how children find out what is normal in a relationship, because there isn’t statutory child sex education in schools and what there is doesn’t really cover child protection. Instead, children are as their first port of call going to the internet and finding very graphic pornography and taking that as normality”.

Clare Lilley, Head of Child Safety Online at the NSPCC, added that Childline has had an increasing number of calls from young people about the impact that seeing such explicit images online at a young age has had on their lives: “These children are talking about the effect of porn on their relationships and the expectations within those relationships,” she said.

With this in mind, for this week’s debate we want to hear your thoughts and experiences with on sex education. JOIN THE CONVERSATION now on Instagram

More in Regulars

Writers Bloc #1 Val McDermid

By , 25th September 2018
Features, Regulars
From imposter syndrome to plotting, in a new series for Marie Claire authors give me chapter and verse on how the writing process works for them - starting with multi award-winning crime writer Val McDermid, who has written 32 books in as many years

The Lives of Others #6

By , 23rd July 2018
Education, Features, Regulars, Travel
Georgie Higginson moved from the UK to Uganda 14 years ago. After losing their daughter to stillbirth, she and her husband were inspired to build a lodge on the banks of the River Nile, overlooking Murchison Falls National Park - an area once occupied by LRA rebels

Global Village #6

By , 9th July 2018
Design, Features, Regulars, Travel
Designer Kate Pietrasik lived in London, Edinburgh, New York and Byron Bay before moving to a town near Biarritz when her daughter was four years old. She reflects on life as a 'blended family', running her own business, and the joy of being rootless

Global Village #5

By , 21st May 2018
Regulars, Travel
When Rosalind Miller's daughter was born, the medical student was determined having a child wouldn't stop her moving to India to carry out her PhD field work. She reflects on swapping London for a local community in Bangalore with a toddler in tow

Global Village #4

By , 14th May 2018
Education, Regulars, Travel
From Scotland to Costa Rica (via East London, New York and Mexico). Mother-of-four Abigail Pilcher talks multiple relocations, opening – and closing – a guesthouse, and how a holiday to Turkey inspired the move of a lifetime