Healthy lives for young people

Our beliefs

Read our positions on key issues affecting the sexual health and wellbeing of the nation

We recognise that in order to meet young people’s needs we must lead the debate in the controversial, difficult subjects that affect them.

We will continue to be proactive in our lobbying and advocacy work in order to keep young people’s rights at the forefront of the political agenda.

Our position statements outline our beliefs, our vision for young people and our approach, all supported by evidence and useful resources.

Relationships and sex education (RSE)

Brook believes…
  • all young people have the right to high quality Relationships and Sex Education RSE)
  • RSE is protective and supports young people to stay safe, be healthy and develop healthy and enjoyable relationships
  • Relationships and Sex Education should begin at the start of primary school and continue to the end of secondary education through a spiral or developmental curriculum which begins in reception and builds year on year on children’s knowledge and understanding
  • the introduction of mandatory RSE in all secondary schools from September 2020 is a positive development
  • RSE must be taught across a range of alternative settings including pupil referral units, informal education, criminal justice and social care settings to meet the needs of young people outside of schools
  • primary schools need clarity about how Relationships and Health Education and science can and should provide factual and timely information on the human body,  puberty, and human reproduction; and on which aspects of the curriculum are mandatory and which are defined as sex education and are non-mandatory
  • RSE should be comprehensive – addressing biological, developmental, and emotional aspects of sex, sexual development, sexuality and relationships
  • RSE should be evidence-based – drawing on accurate scientific and medical information and directing young people to reliable sources of accurate information
  • RSE should be timely and age-appropriate – to ensure that it is relevant to children’s experiences, developmental levels and behaviours; and so that children are prepared for forthcoming changes to their bodies, feelings and lives
  • RSE must be up to date and address current and emerging challenges and issues; and that it is informed by expert intelligence from sexual health and young people’s organisations locally and nationally
  • RSE must be inclusive of and relevant to all students including LGBT+ students, and students of all abilities and disabilities; including those that are educated in PRUs, alternative provisions and home-schooled
  • RSE must reflect young people’s expressed needs and that schools and other providers should routinely ask and evaluate what young people want to learn and the most effective methods of teaching and learning
  • comprehensive RSE is relevant to all young people regardless of their cultural, ethnic or religious background and that depriving any child of their entitlement to accurate RSE makes children and young people more vulnerable and denies them the necessary tools to lead a healthy life
  • the right of parents to withdraw their children should be discouraged and must be mitigated by excellent communication by schools to promote the benefits of RSE including: guidance on the contents and timing of the curriculum; and provision of evidence-based materials to support parents to supplement school RSE at home
  • schools should inform young people whose parents have withdrawn them from RSE lessons that they have the right to opt into participating in lessons 3 terms before their 16th birthday
  • Brook’s young people’s manifesto and the 12 principles agreed by the Sex Education Forum and its partners (including Brook) represent a good basis for quality RSE
  • RSE must inform young people of their rights to confidential health information, advice and treatment and support young people to access health services in their local area.
Brook would like to see…
  • every young person to have experienced good quality, comprehensive, inclusive RSE whatever the religious character of their school or whether they experienced their education in other settings
  • all young people to be able to make active, informed and healthy choices; and enjoy healthy and pleasurable relationships
  • RSE included in initial teacher training for all primary and secondary teachers
  • RSE developed as a specialist subject for teachers
  • the government to provide adequate resource to upskill the teaching workforce and ensure sufficient numbers of teachers are skilled, informed and confident to delivery RSE in time for mandatory RSE in 2020
  • an ongoing programme of continuing professional development for teachers to ensure RSE keeps up to date with pedagogical developments, and continues to reflect up to date intelligence on current and emerging challenges for young people
  • an update of the statutory guidance in three years’ time to provide more clarity for primary schools on what they need to teach; to remove caveats that schools may use to deprive their students of comprehensive, accurate and inclusive RSE
  • the Government actively promote LGBT inclusivity in RSE and across school life, and to support schools to tackle anti-LGBT campaigning at local and national level
  • the removal of parents’ rights to withdraw children from RSE, so that RSE is brought in line with other statutory subjects
  • for appropriate RSE topics to be taught across further and higher education.
Brook teaches…
  • through participative, informative workshops in schools and other settings aimed at generating evidence-based discussion around sex, sexuality and relationships; increasing young people’s knowledge; and providing them with vocabulary and skills to communicate with their peers, parents and professionals
  • factual information about sex, sexuality, reproduction, sexual behaviour and relationships
  • young people the importance of accessing accurate information from reliable sources
  • lessons on: puberty; consent and sexual boundaries; sex and the law; sexuality and gender; sex and pleasure; safer sex and how to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs; pregnancy testing, pregnancy decision-making and pregnancy options including abortion; healthy relationships; thinking critically about pornography and its impact; the legal, moral and practical issues around sharing sexual images; body image, body diversity and healthy bodies; HIV, PreP and the importance of prevention, early diagnosis, testing and treatment; and about child sexual exploitation, gangs and keeping safe
  • through our online platform, Brook Learn which is free at point of access and available to professionals and parents.
Brook services provide…
  • the range of clinical sexual and reproductive health services including STI prevention, testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and support with pregnancy decision-making, and onwards signposting or referral to the appropriate services
  • support with young people’s sexual health and wellbeing including a confidential and non-judgmental space in which young people can discuss any concerns they have about their sexual health and relationships
  • robust safeguarding for service-users by building trust and providing young people with a safe space and consistent process to explore problems and risks in relation to their lives, relationships and sexual behaviour
  • recognition of young people’s evolving capacity to consent; and work within the Fraser guidelines which allow staff to maintain confidentiality and provide contraceptive treatment and abortion referral for under 16s when it is believed to be in the best interest of the young person to do so and when they have the capacity to understand the treatment they are requesting
  • one to one personal development work to help young people identify their goals and what will help/hinder them in achieving those
  • small group work offered to young people identified as vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Factual briefing, useful links and resources

Factual briefing:

Useful links and resources

Context

Reproductive rights and abortion

Brook believes…
  • reproductive health and rights (as defined by the United Nations) are human rights and should be given a higher priority in UK health policy
  • reproductive rights (which include, but are not limited to, the right to choose the number and spacing of your children, access to contraception, safe maternity and safe abortion) are fundamental to health, gender equality and to women’s* ability to fully participate in society
  • denying or limiting people’s sexual and reproductive rights can have lifelong consequences 
  • the risk of unplanned pregnancy should be addressed through RSE, better public education and easy access to high quality contraceptive services in a range of settings
  • anyone who is pregnant should have the legal right to decide whether to continue or end their pregnancy and the practical support to enact their choice
  • impartial support with decision-making and/or counselling should be provided for those who need or request it
  • teenage parents should be given practical support in pregnancy and parenthood to achieve the best possible outcomes for parents and children
  • abortion should be free, safe and accessible
  • abortion should be regulated and delivered in line with current evidence in order to ensure best clinical care
  • abortion is healthcare and should not sit within the criminal law
  • people accessing abortion and those providing abortion services should have their privacy respected; feel safe; and be free from harassment, intimidation and interference.
Brook would like to see…
  • abortion taken out of the criminal law and regulated like other medical procedures
  • suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to provide early medical and surgical abortions in the NHS and independent sector
  • clinics protected from protestors by Buffer Zones
  • all young people – regardless of the religious character of their school or beliefs of teaching staff – given good quality, evidence-based education around pregnancy prevention, pregnancy options, pregnancy decision-making, parenting and abortion as part of a comprehensive RSE curriculum
  • reproductive health and rights given a higher priority in health policy with a focus on eradicating health inequality (for example higher levels of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality within BAME communities)
  • information and services that are inclusive and recognise that, *while most reproductive health service users are women, some trans men and non-binary people need services including contraception, abortion, cervical cancer screening and maternity care
  • closure of anti-abortion pregnancy advice centres, crisis pregnancy centres, or pregnancy counselling services that provide misinformation, and unethical practices with the aim of obstructing or deterring people from accessing abortion services
  • an end to anti-abortion organisations being invited into schools where they  provide misinformation about contraception and abortion; and sometimes promote homophobic and discriminatory views.
Brook teaches…
  • using an educational approach which aims to build a strong sense of self-worth and health literacy, to enhance motivation for self-determination and self-care
  • that young people have a right to confidential advice and support with contraception and abortion
  • the reasons that unwanted pregnancies happen and how they can be prevented including comprehensive information about contraceptive methods
  • that not all unintended pregnancies are prevented by contraceptive use
  • that not all abortions are a result of a pregnancy being unwanted
  • young people to reflect on what it might be like to be faced with the decision to end or continue a pregnancy including who they could talk to and where they could get support
  • young people to think about the factors that can inform decision-making about pregnancy, including considerations about the best context for successful parenting
  • evidence-based information about abortion including: the different treatment options for abortion; that abortion is a safe and legal option; how to get support with pregnancy decision-making; legal timeframes for abortion; and how to access services
  • that there are a range of different views and values about abortion
  • how to distinguish between areas of opinion that are open to debate, and matters of verifiable fact
  • where to find accurate and reliable information
  • how to access impartial support
  • the importance of accessing abortion care or ante-natal care as soon as possible.
Brook services provide…
  • the range of clinical sexual and reproductive health services including STI prevention, testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and support with pregnancy decision-making, and onwards signposting or referral to the appropriate services including abortion services
  • counselling, or referral to a service that can provide counselling, for those experiencing unintended pregnancy and who need support with the decision about whether to continue pregnancy or have an abortion
  • support with young people’s sexual health and wellbeing including a confidential and non-judgmental space in which young people can discuss any concerns they have about their sexual health and relationships
  • robust safeguarding for service-users by building trust and providing young people with a safe space and consistent process to explore problems and risks in relation to their lives, relationships and sexual behaviour
  • recognition of young people’s evolving capacity to consent; and work within the Fraser guidelines which allow staff to maintain confidentiality and provide contraceptive treatment and abortion referral for under 16s when it is believed to be in the best interest of the young person to do so and when they have the capacity to understand the treatment they are requesting
  • one to one personal development work to help young people identify their goals and what will help/hinder them in achieving those
  • small group work offered to young people identified as vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Factual briefing, definitions, useful links and resources

Factual briefing:

  • Abortion is a safe procedure for which major complications and mortality are rare at all gestations
  • Abortion is common. At least one third of British women will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45
  • 90% of abortions take place within the first 12 weeks and 76% within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy
  • Over the last 10 years abortion rates have decreased year on year for under 18s. There were 1,267 abortions to those aged under 16. Of these, 363 were to those aged under 15 (0.2% of the total).
  • The abortion rate in 2018 was highest for those aged 21 (at 30.7 per 1,000 women).
  • The majority of abortions are carried out using medication. Only a small proportion require a general anaesthetic
  • The majority of people who have abortions have already had at least one child
  • Statistics on abortion in England and Wales are collated by the Department of Health and Social Care are updated and published annually
  • Statistics on abortion in Scotland are updated annually and published by NHS Scotland
  • Abortion in Northern Ireland was decriminalised in 2019 and guidance on how abortion can be provided in NI will be published in 2020
  • Most people are fully fertile immediately after abortion and within three weeks of childbirth.
  • The majority of people express relief following abortion. Most do not experience adverse psychological outcomes. Many have mixed feelings e.g. feeling it was the right decision, but feeling sad that it wasn’t the right time to have a(nother) child
  • Figures collected by the Advisory Group for Contraception show that contraceptive spending has been cut by nearly 18% in real terms since 2015/16. This has resulted in cuts to and closures of services. Specialist young people’s sexual health services are increasingly being shut in favour of moving people into all-age services.

United Nation’s definitions of reproductive health and rights

  • ‘Reproductive Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capacity to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are: the rights of men and women to be informed, have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning including methods for regulation of fertility’
  • ‘Reproductive Rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international laws and international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights’ documents

Useful links and resources:

Sharing youth produced sexual imagery

Brook believes…
  • that curiosity about bodies, sex, and sexuality is a normal aspect of adolescent development
  • that sharing sexual imagery carries significant risks for young people, including around legality, safeguarding, wellbeing, and self-esteem – specifically: participating in criminal behaviour; vulnerability to sexual exploitation and bullying; embarrassment; and risk to reputation and ongoing impact on  digital footprint
  • that there are no technical solutions that can effectively mitigate the risks associated with sharing naked images
  • young people are experts in their own peer and digital cultures and do not respond well to simplistic messages
  • young people do respond well to being asked to identify for themselves the risks associated with different online/digital behaviours
  • young people need to be included in identifying solutions, behaviours and interventions that will help keep them safe
  • young people that seek help with incidents should receive support and safeguarding without automatically being criminalised or criminalising their peers
  • even when image sharing is legal (i.e. because of the age of those involved) it is still very important that images are never made or shared without consent, and that nobody ever puts pressure on another person to create or share an image
  • that the term ‘revenge porn’ is unhelpful and unfair implying that the victim of this abuse is being punished for something they’ve done wrong. The term ‘intimate image abuse’ is a better description of this criminal activity.
Brook would like to see…
  • all children and young people provided with good quality, inclusive, comprehensive RSE and health education which helps them to develop a sense of self-respect and mutual respect; an understanding of the law, of consent, and of everyone’s right to privacy and safety
  • all schools have policies on how to respond to ‘sexting’ incidents underpinned by the principle of proportionality, with the primary concern being the wellbeing and protection of young people
  • teachers have appropriate training and feel confident when managing issues related to image sharing
  • young people to be able to access broad educational, recreational, pastoral and wellbeing opportunities to support them to build resilience, improve self-esteem and increase their knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe and healthy
  • children and young people empowered and supported to be good digital citizens, and develop healthy bystander behaviour and supportive online communities.
Brook teaches…
  • about the law in relation to making and sharing naked images
  • that young people have the right to refuse to provide or view sexual imagery
  • about the right to privacy and the tools, skills and vocabulary to negotiate consent and resist pressure to make or share sexual imagery
  • young people to be able to identify the features of safe and healthy relationships and behaviours, and unsafe or abusive relationships and behaviours
  • young people to explore issues around consent and coercion in all relationships – whether they take place off or online
  • young people to identify for themselves the range of risks of sharing sexual imagery
  • that young people can seek help – if they are concerned about requests to share images or previous incidents of sharing images – without automatically criminalising themselves or their peers
  • how to seek help within and outside of school
  • that there are no technical solutions or fixes that can effectively reduce or remove the risks of sharing sexual imagery
  • a gendered and critical analysis of the ‘sexting’ culture that reflects on evidence that sharing of sexual imagery disproportionately impacts some groups e.g. LGBT young people, and young women
  • nurturing community approaches amongst young people to keeping themselves and their peers safe – including good bystander behaviour in relation to being sent or witnessing sharing of sexual images.
Brook services provide…
  • the range of clinical sexual and reproductive health services including STI prevention, testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and support with pregnancy decision-making, and onwards signposting or referral to the appropriate services
  • support with young people’s sexual health and wellbeing including a confidential and non-judgmental space in which young people can discuss any concerns they have about their sexual health and relationships. This might include the issues around pressure to make or share sexual imagery, or concerns about images already made or shared
  • robust safeguarding for service-users by building trust and providing young people with a safe space and consistent process to explore problems and risks in relation to their lives, relationships and sexual behaviour
  • recognition of young people’s evolving capacity to consent; and work within the Fraser guidelines which allow staff to maintain confidentiality and provide contraceptive treatment and abortion referral for under 16s when it is believed to be in the best interest of the young person to do so and when they have the capacity to understand the treatment they are requesting
  • one to one personal development work to help young people identify their goals and what will help/hinder them in achieving those
  • small group work offered to young people identified as vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Factual briefing, definitions, useful links and resources

Factual briefing

  • the police have the discretion to record illegal sexting incidents without taking action against the young people involved
  • police dealing with incidents of underage production and sharing of sexual imagery must record the incident on their systems. However since 2016 the police have been given discretion to code an incident as ‘Outcome 21’ on the system which means that they do not believe it is in the public interest to further investigate or take action in relation to an incident
  • 90% of 16-24 year olds and 69% of 12-15 year olds own a smartphone, giving them the ability to quickly and easily create and share photos and videos
  • the majority of young people have not taken or shared sexual imagery of themselves
  • A 2016 NSPCC/Office of the Children’s Commissioner England study found that just over one in ten boys and girls (13%) had taken topless pictures of themselves (around one in four of those were girls) and 3% had taken fully naked pictures. Of those who had taken sexual images, 55% had shared them with others. 31% of this group had also shared the image with someone that they did not know.
  • Research from the PSHE Association found that 78% of parents were either fairly or very concerned about youth produced sexual imagery.

Definition of ‘sexting’ from UK Council for Child Internet Safety

In the latest advice for schools and colleges (UKCCIS, 2016), sexting is defined as “the production and/or sharing of sexual photos and videos of and by young people who are under the age of 18. It includes nude or nearly nude images and/or sexual acts. It is also referred to as ‘youth produced sexual imagery’.

‘Sexting’ does not include the sharing of sexual photos and videos of under-18 year olds with or by adults. This is a form of child sexual abuse and must be referred to the police.”

A young person under 18 is breaking the law if they take an explicit photo of themselves or a friend; share an explicit image or video even if it’s shared between children of the same age; possess, download or store an explicit image or video of someone under 18, even if the person in the picture gave their permission for it to be created.

Intimate image abuse aka ‘Revenge Porn’

Guidance from the Ministry of Justice defines ‘revenge porn’ as ‘the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person, without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.’

The offence applies both online and offline, and to images which are shared electronically or in a more traditional way.

Useful links and resources:

Masturbation

Brook believes…
  • children are naturally curious about themselves and their bodies and it is normal for them to touch their own bodies from an early age
  • young children do not distinguish between different parts of their body or know which are considered to be sexual
  • young people with learning disabilities may touch their genitals or masturbate as a part of exploring sensory touch or self-stimulatory behaviour
  • children should learn that their bodies are their own and that they can choose to touch any part of themselves
  • children should know that there are certain parts of their bodies that are private and that other children or adults should not touch them there. For young children resources like the NSPCC Pantasaurus can be helpful for teaching about this
  • children should understand that they and only they have the right to give or refuse permission for someone else to touch any part of their body even if it is not considered ‘private’ e.g. hands or hair
  • children should be taught that they should not touch themselves in places identified as private in front of other people because it can make other people feel uncomfortable or upset them
  • as part of a spiral curriculum children can be taught from early years in an age-appropriate way about how to stay safe, and about appropriate behaviour in relation to touching their own genitals
  • it is normal for young people (male and female) during and after puberty to experiment with touching themselves in a way that gives them sexual pleasure or results in orgasm or ejaculation i.e. masturbating
  • learning about your own body through masturbation may make you better able to communicate about and enjoy sex with a partner
  • male ejaculation may be good for prostate health
  • there is no medical evidence that masturbation is harmful in any way
  • there are myths across many cultures about masturbation and/or ejaculation weakening a man’s power, virility or fertility – these are not true
  • belief systems that prohibit masturbation may engender feelings of guilt or shame in young people who masturbate – this is not helpful or healthy.
Brook would like to see…
  • young people understand their rights in relation to their own bodies
  • young people know how and where to get reliable information and advice about their bodies
  • young people feel confident, knowledgeable, and comfortable about their own bodies
  • an end to the taboo of discussing masturbation (especially female masturbation) and the stigma and shame that is sometimes associated with it.
Brook teaches…
  • children and young people to recognise and report unwanted touch and abuse
  • that masturbation is natural and harmless, but should be done in a private place such as your own bedroom or bathroom
  • that some young people do and some don’t like to masturbate
  • that it is normal and healthy for people of all genders to masturbate if they find it enjoyable
  • masturbation alone is not only medically safe, but it is free from most of the risks associated with partnered sex e.g. STIs, pregnancy (see useful links)
  • that ‘mutual masturbation’ is a form of non-penetrative sex that many couples enjoy.
Brook services provide…
  • the range of clinical sexual and reproductive health services including STI prevention, testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and support with pregnancy decision-making, and onwards signposting or referral to the appropriate services
  • support with young people’s sexual health and wellbeing including a confidential and non-judgmental space in which young people can discuss any concerns they have about their sexual health and relationships. This might include any questions they have around masturbation
  • robust safeguarding for service-users by building trust and providing young people with a safe space and consistent process to explore problems and risks in relation to their lives, relationships and sexual behaviour
  • recognition of young people’s evolving capacity to consent; and work within the Fraser guidelines which allow staff to maintain confidentiality and provide contraceptive treatment and abortion referral for under 16s when it is believed to be in the best interest of the young person to do so and when they have the capacity to understand the treatment they are requesting
  • one to one personal development work to help young people identify their goals and what will help/hinder them in achieving those
  • small group work offered to young people identified as vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Useful links and resources

Pornography

Brook believes…
  • it is natural for young people to be curious about sex
  • due to its accessibility some young people will access pornographic material accidentally
  • some young people actively seek out pornography to satisfy their curiosity, for sexual stimulation or to explore their evolving sexual feelings
  • many young people do not like or choose to watch porn
  • many young people think it is normal to watch porn
  • young people may be more likely to seek out pornography if RSE has failed to provide appropriate information or representations of different bodies, referenced people of different sexualities, or has failed to address sexual feelings and sexual pleasure
  • pornography is produced as entertainment for adults. It is not intended to be, and is not, a reliable source of education for young people
  • there are many types of porn, but concern about porn often centres on the type of porn which includes acts of violence against and humiliation of women; represents unsafe sexual practices; and presents sex as something which is primarily for men’s enjoyment; 
  • that viewing pornography can lead to sexual arousal and can shape sexual desires and practices
  • porn often involves actors with a narrow range of body types and that this may have an impact on some young people’s feelings about what a normal or desirable body should like
  • that some young people are more affected than others by watching porn
  • that patterns of exposure to porn, response to porn and behaviours relating to porn may be gendered and that education about pornography should be gender-sensitive
  • there is insufficient robust evidence to demonstrate whether, why or how porn causes harm; who is most affected by it and why; and what legal, educational, therapeutic, and technological interventions could reduce these risks and harms
  • young people must be engaged in developing any responses to current concerns about pornography
  • technological approaches to making porn less accessible are unlikely to be effective – except in preventing ‘accidental’ access to porn.
Brook would like to see…
  • a more positive culture around discussing sex and sexuality
  • education which acknowledges and challenges gendered ideas about sex
  • better evidence and a more open conversation about how children and young people can be supported to live safely and develop healthy, pleasurable relationships in a context in which pornography is easily accessible
  • all children and young people provided with good quality, inclusive, comprehensive RSE which would include accurate information, depict diverse bodies and relationships and address sexual pleasure so that pornography isn’t relied upon or stumbled upon as a source of information and education
  • all young people to know their right to relationships that are safe and enjoyable and their own responsibility to ensure that everybody’s rights are respected
  • all young people know who they can talk to if they are concerned by something they or their peers have seen.
Brook teaches…
  • about the law as it relates to pornography and the wider production, sharing and viewing of sexual images, with the aim of preventing young people becoming a victim or perpetrator of illegal activity
  • young people to think about the reasons people watch porn and what the they perceive the risks and benefits to be
  • young people to think critically about messages and images relating to bodies, sex, sexuality and relationships in pornography and other online and offline media
  • young people to identify the characteristics of safe, healthy, respectful, consenting relationships
  • the importance of seeking active consent from sexual partners
  • that young people have the right to refuse to participate in any sexual activity, including viewing sexual imagery
  • that nobody is entitled to sexual pleasure at the expense of another person’s safety, or enjoyment
  • young people to recognise images, narratives and material that depict or promote unhealthy, non-consenting and harmful behaviours
  • that body diversity is natural and normal and that healthy bodies come in a range of shapes and sizes
  • young people to recognise harmful patterns of engagement with pornography and to know where to get help
  • about reliable sources of information about sex and sexuality that might reduce the likelihood of young people accessing pornography accidentally
  • professionals and older young people to reflect on the concept of ‘ethical’ porn
  • parents carers and teachers about monitoring and managing young childrens’online life and particularly the possibility of accessing pornography.
Brook services provide…
  • the range of clinical sexual and reproductive health services including STI prevention, testing and treatment, contraception, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and support with pregnancy decision-making and onwards signposting or referral to the appropriate services
  • support with young people’s sexual health and wellbeing including a confidential and non-judgmental space in which young people can discuss any concerns they have about their sexual health and relationships; including their responses to confusing or distressing pornographic content
  • robust safeguarding for service-users by building trust and providing young people with a safe space and consistent process to explore problems and risks in relation to their lives, relationships and sexual behaviour; might include the impact of pornography consumption on their relationships and their own or their partner’s behaviour
  • recognition of young people’s evolving capacity to consent; and work within the Fraser guidelines which allow staff to maintain confidentiality and provide contraceptive treatment and abortion referral for under 16s when it is believed to be in the best interest of the young person to do so and when they have the capacity to understand the treatment they are requesting
  • one to one personal development work to help young people identify their goals and what will help/hinder them in achieving those
  • small group work offered to young people identified as vulnerable or ‘at risk’.
Factual briefing, useful links and resources

Factual briefing:

  • In the UK it’s legal to watch or buy porn when you are 18 years old, as long as it doesn’t involve: people who are under 18; sexual assault or rape; scenes of life-threatening violence or acts that are likely to cause serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals; animals (often called bestiality); dead people (necrophilia)
  • It is illegal for an adult to show a young person under 18 porn, or to allow them to watch it.
  • Any sexual content online that involves anyone under the age of 18, can be reported (anonymously if requested) to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The IWF can remove this content and look to safeguard the child or young person involved. If you have seen content like this and want to talk to somebody about what you have seen, you can call ChildLine anonymously on 0800 1111[b1] 
  • I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it’, a report by NSPCC, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Middlesex University includes a range of findings on exposure to, impact of, attitudes to, and feelings about pornography including:
    • more boys view online pornography, through choice, than girls
    • at 11, the majority of children had not seen online pornography (28% of 11-12 year olds report seeing pornography)
    • by 15, children were more likely than not to have seen online pornography (65% of 15-16 year olds report seeing pornography)
    • children were as likely to stumble across pornography via a ‘pop up’ as to search for it deliberately or be shown it by other people.

Useful links and resources:

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