How young is too young for sex education at school?

Is 7/8 too young to be taught about sex education? [Photo: Getty]
Is 7/8 too young to be taught about sex education? [Photo: Getty]

Parents are divided about how young is too young for children to be taught about sex education at school.

Teaching children about the birds and the bees is a tricky topic (so much so that one couple advertised for an expert to do it for them) and knowing how much information to give kids and at what age is something many parents disagree on.

One such example is a mum who recently went online to ask if year three is too young for sex education.

“Obvs [sic] age appropriate,” she wrote on parenting site Mumsnet. “Another mum is [sic] DS2’s [Dear Son Two’s] class was outraged that her DS had to hear such things as he is so innocent and naive.”

“I am quite happy with it as tbh [sic] he has heard all of this already from his older brother. FWIW [For What It’s Worth] the boy in question also has an older sister so chances are he knows too.”

The mum ended her post by asking if she was being unreasonable to think it was ok for her son to be learning about sex education at that age.

And other parents were pretty divided on the subject.

Too young to learn about sex?

Many were of the opinion that children aged seven and eight were old enough to be informed about the topic.

“There is no such thing as “too young” for biology,” one user wrote. “Age appropriate info (dd knew from being able to talk what a period was and the whole sperm meets egg story) should be readily available and willingly given.”

“Y3 is what, 7 to 8yo [sic] and puberty can start at 9 so yes. Start young,” she added.

“In the age of the Internet there is no way a child wouldn’t know what sex is until the age of 12,” another woman agreed.

“I would rather them get real, truthful and honest information from me or a teacher rather than off [sic] mates and google.”

“No it’s not too early. Your child’s innocence doesn’t end because they know about sex,” another parent added.

But some parents believed that children in year three were too young to be taught about sex.

“Too young for details of penis in vagina in my opinion,” one parent commented. “They’re only 8! My daughter starts year 5 in September and doesn’t know about sex yet. I was 12 when my mum told me.”

“My eldest is seven. Of course it’s too young,” agreed another. “Kids of five knowing about sperm and willies…Let them be children. Please.”

“No, I don’t think it’s at all necessary for seven year olds and younger to know about sex,” another user added. “It’s not something any seven year old needs to know so I can’t see the point in purposefully telling them about it.”

A mum has asked if year three is too young to learn about sex education [Photo: Getty]
A mum has asked if year three is too young to learn about sex education [Photo: Getty]

For other parents their opinion on the topic depended on how they were being taught.

“Depends what they are showing them and how the teacher handles it,” one user explained.

“Naming body parts and biology textbook diagrams is one thing, but in yr 4 my DS’s class were shown, with cartoon videos, all about how babies were made, culminating in an access-all-areas video of childbirth.

“They all came out of school screeching about how disgusting it was (‘My eyes! My eyes!’), like a horror film etc, and some of the girls are now determined that motherhood is not for them.

“Personally I’d rather teach them about this stuff myself, as and when they are curious, or it becomes relevant, rather than leave it to the school to traumatise them!”

It isn’t the first time the sex education subject has courted controversy. Earlier this year parents were divided about the content in a new sex education book for children.

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made, by Fiona Katauskas is described as being a “straightforward and honest” look at the topics of body parts, sexual intercourse and fertilisation.

But some parents have accused the book of being too graphic for little ones.

Parents also voiced concerns when plans to teach children as young as four about sex were unveiled by the Government in March last year.

As part of a major overhaul, sex and relationship education in the UK is to be made compulsory in all schools by 2019.

This means that children from reception age upwards will be taught about “safe and healthy relationships”.

Under the move, all primary schools in England will have to teach “age appropriate” lessons about relationships, while secondaries will have to give classes in both sex and relationships.

What the experts say

According to the NHS, it’s never too early to start talking about it. “If your child is asking questions about sex, they’re ready for truthful answers,” the site explains.

The site goes on to explain that “talking to children about sex won’t make them go out and do it. Evidence shows that children whose parents talk about sex openly start having sex at a later stage and are more likely to use contraception.”

Which has to be a good thing.

The FPA also has helpful information for parents who want to speak to their children about the subject. Its book ‘Speakeasy: talking with your children about growing up’ spells out how to sit down and talk to your children about puberty, sex and relationships in an age-appropriate way.

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