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Sexting among young people is "skyrocketing" but the government is "refusing to protect the smartphone generation", says UK Labour party Lucy Powell, Shadow Education Secretary.
Labour’s shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell has announced that the party intends to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) classes - which cover sex education - statutory. The current Tory government would like to keep the subject's status under review. Parents can withdraw their children and not all schools are not obliged to run the scheme.
Labour says that these guidelines were established "before the smartphone generation were even born" and are therefore irrelevant. Our chief writer here at BeSecureOnline.co.uk explains.
According to a freedom of information request, police in England investigated more than 13 times as many cases of sexting amongst under-16s last year as in 2013. 18 of England's 31 forces responded to labour's request for information. In 2013, the 18 forces investigated 51 cases of under-16s "sending or receiving explicit messages and images on a mobile telecommunications device".
In 2015, the figure is a shocking 665 cases following the emergence of apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat - with young teenagers also admitting to lying about their age in order to gain access to dating sites such as Tinder and Grindr.
Labour highlights "increasing evidence that access to new media and technology is creating new and unprecedented risks for young people with youngsters being pushed into adult territory well before they are ready," says Lucy Powell. "Far more needs to be done to equip young people with the resilience and knowledge they need to stay healthy and safe in relationships both off and online, and to spot the signs and feel confident to report manipulation and exploitation."
Making PSHE (Personal, Social, Health & Economic) compulsory in all state-funded schools in England would be "one of the first things labour does in government".
Good PHSE teaching would also help protect children from radicalisation and substance abuse, and boost child mental health, the party argues.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said high quality PSHE was "central" to its aim of providing all young people "with a curriculum for life that prepares them to succeed in modern Britain, and we expect all schools to teach it". To support schools, the department had funded and produced a range of guidance and support on issues ranging from consent to internet safety, she said.
The government had asked leading head teachers to produce an action plan for improving PSHE, she addded.
Labour's intervention follows increasing pressure on the government to make sex-and-relationships education compulsory in state primaries and secondaries. She said the government would instead focus on improving the quality of PSHE teaching, following the OFSTED finding that 40% of it was less than good.
Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the sex education forum agreed the guidance on sex and relationships education was "woefully outdated" with "nothing to say on consent, sexting and pornography".
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