Schools ban MTV amid sexual abuse fears

Children are being exposed to an increasingly sexualised TV diet of pop performers such as Miley Cyrus, above. Picture: GettyChildren are being exposed to an increasingly sexualised TV diet of pop performers such as Miley Cyrus, above. Picture: Getty
Children are being exposed to an increasingly sexualised TV diet of pop performers such as Miley Cyrus, above. Picture: Getty
TWO Scottish local authorities have banned MTV from communal television screens in schools to shield pupils from the sexualised content of popular pop videos.

The move by North and South Lanarkshire councils comes as the Scottish Government prepares to introduce a nationwide education programme to advise children on sexual abuse, harassment and assault in response to growing concerns about the sexualisation of young Scots.

Under the scheme, which is the first of its kind, Rape Crisis Scotland will send experts into schools to provide guidance for children whose opinions appear to be increasingly formed by exposure to pornography or “twerking” videos featuring singers such as Miley Cyrus.

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Nine workers have been employed since the end of last year to go into schools and speak to children as part of a preliminary project. Early feedback has revealed alarming attitudes to sex, consent and peer pressure.

Some workers have reported schoolchildren organising “grab a boob Tuesday” or “slap an arse Friday” where assaults in the playground are encouraged. Boys are awarded “man points” for assaulting girls and bullied by peers if they do not take part. Girls say they are encouraged to re-enact scenes from porn films and are pressured to be “porn-ready” by boyfriends.

Rape Crisis Scotland says many schools are struggling to cope. Lanarkshire councils took the decision to ban MTV in a hope that less exposure to sexually explicit videos would help address the problem.

Kathryn Dawson, sexual violence prevention co-ordinator at Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “We’re looking at issues like consent, exploitation, defining what is sexual violence, and how can we support friends if they’ve been affected.

“If someone sends a naked picture around, you’ve got a choice about whether you send that on.”

The charity’s resource pack, entitled Preventing Sexual Violence, outlines the aims of the programme.

It wants to ensure that children understand what counts as sexual violence, and what the law says, be more likely to notice sexual bullying, harassment or violence, and be more prepared to try and do something about it.

The workers face different challenges in changing the attitudes of boys and girls.

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“To start with they [girls] talked about it as if it was a joke. Then they talked about feeling uncomfortable, but being worried about being called frigid or no fun,” Dawson said.

“There’s also a job in breaking down [boys’] bravado. If you don’t do it, you get called ‘gay’.”

Sandie Barton, national coordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, added: “Boys are told you have to do certain things to get your man points. If you were not doing that, you were not a man.”

The charity has been encouraged by the reaction from schools, which have welcomed the programme. However, it believes that many teachers do not know how to identify inappropriate sexual behaviour among youngsters, or how to respond to it.

Dawson said: “A fair generalisation would be that schools are struggling to know how to respond – some are trying, some are not.

Schools in Lanarkshire, for example, are not showing MTV on screens in the general hall because of levels of sexualisation.”

Pop videos are part of a highly sexualised media, which children are exposed to from a young age, the charity says, the starkest example of which is internet porn.

Dawson said: “There’s a culture of boys being taught about entitlement and transgressing sexual boundaries. The concept of consent is not understood.

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“Whereas ten to 15 years ago there was a pressure on young women to feel attractive, now it’s much more about being sexy, because of porn, and being ‘porn ready’.”

Rape Crisis Scotland is also concerned that society sees sexual abuse between young people as different to incidents involving adults.

It cites the Scottish court case of Karl Henderson, 17, who admitted sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a stationery cupboard, but escaped with an absolute discharge and was not put on the sex offenders’ register.

The teenager, who was described in court as a talented musician, was sentenced at Falkirk Sheriff Court in January after admitting molesting the girl at Denny High School in Stirlingshire.

The Crown Office has appealed the sentence on grounds of undue leniency.

Barton said: “The sheriff said this was just two teens in the cupboard.

“There’s something in his understanding that, because it’s young people, there are a different set of rules and different accountability.

“If it was in a workplace, it would have been seen very differently; so what are we saying to young people?”

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Teachers admitted sexual harassment and rape were difficult issues for them to deal with and welcomed the guidance from Rape Crisis Scotland.

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, said: “The EIS works with organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland to promote positive relationship education, including the exploration of troubling issues such as harassment, abuse and sexual assault. These will always be difficult areas for teachers and pupils to discuss, so it is welcome that organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland can offer assistance to schools to allow teachers to explore the issues and offer appropriate support and guidance to pupils.”

The Scottish Government said the programme was part of their efforts to help children live healthier and happier lives.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are investing a further £20 million in funding for early years to support organisations to take their work further into the community through our third sector early intervention fund.

“This work complements the health and wellbeing part of the Curriculum for Excellence, which places a big emphasis on presenting facts in an objective, balanced and sensitive manner within a framework of sound values and an awareness of the law on sexual behaviour.”

An MTV spokeswoman said: “MTV both creates and reflects pop culture - our content mirrors what is current in and relevant to the lives of young people.

“Across the UK, MTV is available to view on TV only to those who have chosen to pay a subscription. It is licensed by Ofcom and complies with all the relevant broadcasting codes, meaning music videos are scheduled appropriately, taking account of the context in which they will be viewed.”