The awareness week is asking adults to take a non-judgemental and open approach to any discussions they may have with young people about sex on the internet.
Latest figures show that over one third (38 per cent) of Somerset young people (15-16 year olds) reported they had visited websites which promote illegal downloading and 28 per cent of these had visited sites which promote pornography.
In the same survey, 16 per cent of young people responded that they have sent sexual pictures of themselves to someone they know and 7 per cent said they had sent sexual images of themselves to a stranger. The survey also showed that 49 per cent of Year 10s think that people start having sex by the age of 15 or younger, whereas the reality is somewhat different with 19 per cent of Year 10 pupils surveyed stating that they were currently having sex or had been in a sexual relationship.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Members for Children and Families, said: “We certainly wouldn’t encourage any young person to have a sexual relationship. We can see from the survey results that many young people have a distorted view about the relationships their peers are having. Adults need to be comfortable having a discussion to help young people distinguish the reality from fiction.” There is good advice for all young people in the SWISH (Somerset-wide Integrated Sexual Health Services) App in a ‘look after yourself’ section that gives advice on what a good relationship looks like, staying safe, and taking relationships completely at their own pace.
Alison Bell, Consultant in Public Health, Somerset County Council said: "Latest figures from Sexual Health Charity, FPA, show that 90 percent of more than 2,000 parents surveyed said it was important to talk to their children about issues related to pornography such as consent, communication, body image and self-esteem, but only around 50 per cent of parents of children aged 13-18 actually had done so. “Talking to a young person about online porn and relationships is something that you may find challenging but it's important to be open and honest. We want young people to understand that the relationships they see online are very different, often not realistic, compared to real and healthy relationships.”
The SWISH App can be downloaded free in the Apple App Store and Google Play App Store by searching Swish Services in the Apple App Store (C&SH) in Google Play.
Top tips and further information for parents and teachers can also be found on the FPA website (www.fpa.org.uk) on how to have good conversations about relationships, sex, porn and the internet.