Facing reality of sex

West Park, Children on swings'West Park Kids on Swings April 1952  old ref number 18-2103''picture caption:  Fun must be a serious business, judging by the expressions of these children on the rotary swings in West Park playground.  But the little fellow on the right has not the slightest interest in the swings.  He was enjoying his afternoon nap.''Sunderland Echo April 18 1952
West Park, Children on swings'West Park Kids on Swings April 1952 old ref number 18-2103''picture caption: Fun must be a serious business, judging by the expressions of these children on the rotary swings in West Park playground. But the little fellow on the right has not the slightest interest in the swings. He was enjoying his afternoon nap.''Sunderland Echo April 18 1952
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Too much, too young.

That’s the view of worried parents whose children as young as six are about to be given sex education lessons at school.

Grenoside Primary already offers such lessons - which go beyond the birds and the bees - to its older pupils, but wants to begin teaching its children aged six to nine.

And up to 20 families are so against the idea, they are prepared to withdraw their youngsters from class. They say the lessons, which will include explanations of the names of sexual body parts and subjects such as ‘good and bad touching’ and homosexuality, are far too much information, too soon.

“Children should be allowed to be children - we do not want them to be growing up too quickly,” said one mother.

Their opinion is entirely understandable. They don’t want their children to lose their innocent view of the world yet.

Fact of life is, though, that children are already bombarded with sexual information and influences - and are growing up way too fast.

The subject has been long debated by everyone from parents to government ministers and TV programmes like Channel 4’s recent Stop Pimping Our Kids.

So much needs to change in this overly-sexualised world, but is it too late?

Kids want to act and dress like mini adults. And quite often, we encourage it in seemingly innocent ways. Who hasn’t bought a toy make-up set for a little girl, or taken her to see her favourite boy band? Hands up the parents who refuse to allow their little boys to gel their hair like daddy does, or doesn’t ask them who their girlfriend is?

Decades ago when we were kids, the sexiest things on TV were Pan’s People and Anthea Redfern. Pop stars didn’t writhe around semi-naked because there weren’t any videos. No one had sex on Coronation Street.

We wore Ladybird vests and matching pants until we were 13. The only time our dresses were short was when we were on the verge of growing out of them and our mothers were making us “wear them up.”

Undoubtedly, innocence was our preserve for a lot longer than it is today. Consequently, there was no need for sex education lessons until secondary school.

Halcyon days? Yes, but there was a downside for some. Like the girls who didn’t know what was happening to them when their periods started. Or when they were pregnant.

We’ve got to face the reality of modern life and trust the schools. They understand how to handle it. And we’ve got to think about the children whose innocence may already have been stolen.

This week, I met a woman who told me she walked out of her first school sex lesson in shock because it made her realise her grandfather had been sexually abusing her for nine years. She was 13.

How she wished she’d had that lesson at the age of six.