TV shows like Love Island and EastEnders are having an impact on how young people behave in relationships, a teacher has claimed.
Vanya Harris, a teacher at Park Academy in Hillingdon, north London, says that teenagers are basing their relationships on looks, not emotions.
She blames the shows for making sexual contact seem “akin to a handshake” which encourages an unhealthy view on intimacy.
Harris also said that the way people argue in EastEnders promotes the idea that relationships should be “volatile”.
Her comments came as a new sex education curriculum is rolled out across schools in England.
A latest area of focus is about the differences of on-screen relationships versus real-life relationships.
“Sexual contact has become currency,” Harris, who’s also a wellness lead at the school, said.
“It’s important for teenagers to realise they can have a platonic friendship and it doesn’t have to lead to sex.
“On shows like Love Island, it doesn’t make good viewing to see a relationship slowly build up over many weeks, so they see a relationship build up over a few hours.
“And it’s not about getting to know someone properly, finding out about their personality, intelligence or if they know any good jokes.
“There’s no mystery, it’s based heavily on the physical aspects. Shows like this spread ultra-sexualised images to children and body shapes that are not always natural.”
Harris believes in the importance of teenagers using their personalities to their advantage rather than their focus on looks.
She understands that these shows are edited for “entertainment” purposes but argues they breed an “‘I’m going to create a big scene and a drama’ mentality”.
“This is not how positive, quality relationships unfold in real life.”
In 2019, the sex education curriculum was updated for the first time in 20 years by former education secretary Damian Hinds.
There’s a focus on targeting pupils in year eight, who are around 12-13 years old.
This move is deliberate, according to Harris.
“It is about catching them early and thinking let’s discuss this before it’s too late and they make bad decisions that they feel they can’t turnaround from.
“At this age they are starting to find their feet when it comes to relationships and they are wanting to couple up. A negative experience can damage their mental health and wellbeing.
“And what I’m trying to do is get them to understand that friendship and romance have a lot of common qualities but they are also very different.”
The classes are tailored to help them avoid getting into situations they will regret with an aim to “empower them to make positive decisions”.