We owe it to our children to tell them about web dangers as soon as we can

On-line peril: Our children are being confronted with vile internet images. Rachel Moore says it's o

On-line peril: Our children are being confronted with vile internet images. Rachel Moore says it's only right that we teach them about the dangers as early as possible. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

In a world where the sky is always blue, clouds cotton wool fluffy and everyone is smiley, caring and nurturing, four-year-olds would be running free in the park, frolicking in the sandpit and playing farmyards. It's the world we all want but will never get. Warmth, kindness and love are not guaranteed.

Today's world is hard, cruel and full of danger – not just from busy roads, sharp objects and the suspicious-looking guy loitering around the playground.

But invisible threats every minute of every day from the moment we hand our children his or her first electronic device and give access to the internet, pushing them into the darkness that lurks behind those screens.

That's why our four-year-olds must be sitting in classrooms being taught sex education.

That's what progress looks like, what innovation, invention and super-technology has given us.


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It makes me weep – it's a place of peril we've created. And there's no going back.

I hate a world that forces small children barely out of nappies to think about sex education before they can read or add two and two.

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I hate that progress means they will have to learn about healthy relationships from teachers and not from what they see in their families. But that's fluffy cloud world. That world doesn't exist.

I hate that the 13-year-old girl on the train is anxious because she sent naked or topless photos of herself to boys in her school 'because everyone does and I'd be bullied if I didn't.'

I loathe the world where the boy she believes is leering at her photo is really an older man pretending to be a teenager, grooming her for his perverted pleasure.

I hate that 12- and 13-year-old boys watch the most explicit porn on the £600 phones their parents give them, believing that's how real relationships are and women behave, because their parents never talk to them about what really matters but just buy them stuff.

I hate that every day, on top of all the other stresses and anxieties, our children have to negotiate online porn, cyber bullying and sexting.

I hate that the tiny tots need help to navigate the digital world to avoid the dangers of sexting, revenge pornography and online grooming, to protect them from physical and emotional harm.

I hate that this has to be done in schools, but parents who think it's right to give five, six, seven and eight-year-olds smartphones really can't be trusted to give guidance because they really haven't a clue.

Without the most vigilant parental controls, our children are just a click away from the most explicit sex lessons, and if they can find it they will.

It's estimate that 53pc of 11-16 year olds – mostly boys – have seen explicit material online on laptops and phones.

That's why we should embrace the biggest overhaul of sex education for 17 years, replacing an amalgam of ambiguous regulations with compulsory sex and relationship education in schools in England.

No one wants their four-year-old to learn this stuff, but, unless you live in a cave, with no connection to the outside world, they will.

And unless you intend on a lifetime ban on any electronic gadgetry or internet access, it's crucial that children are made aware of the real dangers of social media, the long-term effects and widespread implications of sexting.

It works for the Dutch, who start at four, teaching the differences between boys and girls.

The open attitude in Holland has meant pregnancy rate among teenage girls is one of the lowest in Europe. In Holland, parents back up the teaching at home.

But, here, parents' own addictions to the internet and their smartphones means it would end up as another thing to do that never gets done, properly anyway.

Although there's no guarantee that a teacher will deliver the message effectively and safely.

The real and terrifying threats online our children face every day were never foreseen.

We've created the monster, now we must protect and educate children about.

As undesirable as it feels, sex education must start as young as possible and go on throughout their teens.

It's about confidence, empowerment and awareness of the dangers children view naïvely as opportunities and excitement.

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