8 Dec 2014

Youngsters urged to talk about sex

2:01 pm on 8 December 2014

Too many young people have little understanding of consent, according to one of the authors of new sex education guidelines for schools.

The Ministry of Education has updated the guidelines for schools following the recommendations of a health select committee, which criticised the current guidelines, written in the late 1990s, as being out of date.

For the first time the new sexuality education guidelines will include issues of consent and coercion, including discussions on what constitutes rape.

Dr Katie Fitzpatrick, of Auckland University's Education department, has long advocated for better sexuality education in schools and helped draft the new guidelines.

She said cases such as the so-called Roastbusters one had shown how important it was for young people to discuss what to do in situations such as parties, where boundaries could get blurred, including how to look after themselves and their friends.

Dr Fitzpatrick said there had been something of a moral panic in the media about the issue of underage sex but the problem was not as bad as some were portraying.

She said the most recent research by the Adolescent Health Research Group at the University of Auckland showed 75 percent of young people in secondary schools were not sexually active.

Dr Fitzpatrick said the internet had increased the pressures teenagers face.

"The rise of pornography obviously, immediate access to that online, is a big difference than when we were growing up."

She said young people needed help with safe behaviour online.

The ministry is currently seeking feedback from schools and the sector, and expects to introduce the new guidelines early next year.

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