A Guide for the Education Sector
Healthy Relationships, Online Safety, Consent & Active Bystander Training
Knowledge is powerful. Knowledge is the key to ensuring that young people and students have the tools and understanding to make smart decisions about healthy relationships, online safety and consent.
Relationships are difficult to navigate. Establishing healthy relationship habits early is important in helping young people manage their emotions, communicate effectively, and develop strong interpersonal skills. The goal is to foster a positive attitude towards relationships that encourages communication and understanding over judgement or power dynamics.
By educating young people about healthy relationships, online safety, consent, and being an active bystander, we can help equip them with the knowledge they need to make positive choices and create safer environments, both as young people and later in life.
At ICENA, we have a comprehensive range of educational courses for students in Primary and Secondary Schools, as well as young people in higher education and University. Our library consists of bystander training, introductions to sexual and domestic violence, discussions about pornography and much more – all aimed at educating young people of various ages about navigating these topics safely. We’ll be exploring our available courses throughout this guide, and we’ll be discussing the previously mentioned topics in detail. So, read on to find out more about teaching young people how to protect their online safety, build healthy relationships, and promote consent.
For a list of our most frequently asked questions, please visit the bottom of our guide.
The Importance of Training in the Education Sector: Primary, Secondary, Further Education & University
Healthy relationships, online safety, consent and active bystander advice are important for young people of all ages. The education sector plays a pivotal role in teaching students about these topics – it’s often the first place that young people start to learn about relationships and boundaries.
Below, we’ve broken down some of the reasons as to why training is so important for those that work in Primary & Secondary Schools, and Universities.
Primary Schools: At primary level, teachers and educators have an important opportunity to introduce healthy relationship habits from a young age. With children encountering pornography for the first time at the age of 13 on average, according to the Children’s Commissioner, it’s important for them to be preemptively cautioned about the risks that exist online, and how to properly communicate with one another.
Secondary Schools: By secondary school, students are likely to have more questions about relationships, sex and the internet than ever before. Providing them with an open and safe environment to discuss these topics can help ensure that they make informed decisions, build positive relationships and protect their online safety.
Further Education Colleges & Universities: In further education and universities, young people will require a more mature level of training in order to prepare them for the ‘real world’. This is where we focus on teaching active bystander approaches in order to equip students with the skills they need to look out for themselves and others around them.
It’s important to note that while there are many similarities between each of these educational sectors, there are also some key differences which need to be taken into consideration when developing targeted courses and initiatives.
As mentioned, Primary Schools are the perfect place to start introducing young people to healthy relationships, digital safety, consent and active bystander behaviour. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Consent?
First, it’s important to define what consent is and why it’s so important. Consent is an agreement between two or more people, in which each individual can freely make a decision without pressure or coercion. It’s also important to discuss enthusiastic consent, which is when both parties genuinely want to participate in the activity and provide positive verbal cues.
By teaching children about consent from a young age, we can help ensure that they always feel safe and respected. By exploring the concept of enthusiastic consent, children will learn that all parties should be equally engaged in any given situation. It’s also important to emphasise the fact that throughout their lives, they have a right to say no or withdraw their consent at any time – regardless of whatever else has happened leading up to that point.
In its simplest form, consent means that all parties involved have the opportunity to give their permission for something. When teaching about consent at primary level, this could involve activities such as role playing different scenarios, discussing boundaries, and having open conversations about relationships. It’s also vital to stress the importance of asking for help whenever needed – whether this be from a teacher or trusted adult.
Examples of where a child may need to ask for consent include:
- Hugging friends;
- Sharing personal information online;
- Trying out a new activity.
By introducing these concepts at a young age, we can ensure that students understand the importance of respect and how it applies to different situations.
How to Explain Consent to a Child
In schools, consent is an important component of creating a safe environment for students. It’s essential that teachers and staff take the time to explain what consent looks like in different contexts, such as when it comes to physical contact between peers. When having these conversations, we need to approach the topic openly and honestly with students.
Teachers and educators can use role-playing scenarios to show students how they should communicate with one another if they wish to engage in certain activities. By teaching children to ask for permission before engaging in these activities, we can ensure that all parties involved have given their consent and are comfortable with the situation, as well as establishing boundaries in relationships.
Within our library, we have a training course on this topic titled “Talking to Primary-Aged Children About Consent Course and Online Safety”. By the end of the training session, teachers and educators will have the ability to teach children about boundaries and consent with confidence. You’ll be prepared to help children understand the definitions of “boundary” and “body boundary”, as well as learning how they differ across different types of relationships.
The course covers topics such as how it feels when someone crosses a boundary, who to reach out to if a boundary is breached, how boundaries may shift as we age, the distinction between private and secret matters, and recognising the contrasts among safe, unsafe and unwanted touch.
Why are Positive Relationships Important for Children’s Development & Wellbeing?
It’s essential that children learn how to build and maintain positive relationships. Positive relationships help children develop socially, emotionally, and academically – so it’s important to teach them the value of respect, consent, communication and empathy when engaging with others.
Prevention starts with awareness, and making sure everyone understands what healthy (and unhealthy) relationships look like is crucial. Creating a safe and supportive learning environment that allows negative behaviour to be tackled early creates an opportunity for open dialogue for those affected. By giving younger people the language to describe unacceptable behaviours, it gives them the power to recognise, challenge and react appropriately. Creating this kind of understanding from an early age provides young people with the tools needed to keep themselves safe now and in the future.
Our Introduction to Sexual and Domestic Violence course is a great place to start for providing staff the knowledge and understanding to recognise signs of abuse and domestic violence, as well as equipping them with the skills needed to provide support for those affected. This course is designed to help individuals by providing a better understanding of why these issues occur, breaking down barriers that may prevent disclosure from occurring, and helping people feel more confident in their ability to identify and respond to red flags and disclosures.
Talking to Children About Pornography
Early exposure to pornography can have long-term negative consequences for children – it often contains degrading depictions of sexual activity. As 10% of children have viewed pornography by the age of 9, it’s important we talk to young people about the impact that viewing this content can have on their mental health and wellbeing.
We also need to ensure children understand the difference between depictions of sex in pornography and real-life relationships – pornography should never be viewed as an accurate representation of what consenting partners do in a relationship, or something that’s necessary to experience in order to become sexually active.
Studies indicate that watching pornography can cause physical changes in the brain. The brain’s reward system is taken over by the images in pornography, leading to abnormally high levels of dopamine being released for extended periods of time. Because of this, people can easily become addicted to the dopamine high that watching pornography provides.
By teaching children about these risks associated with watching pornography from a young age, we equip them with the knowledge and understanding needed to make more informed decisions when they’re older. We must also provide kids with an open space to talk freely about sex and relationships in order to ensure they feel comfortable asking questions, seeking help and giving feedback if something isn’t right. This will ultimately help protect their mental health.
For more information on the discussed topics and how ICENA can help with training in Primary schools – please get in touch with a member of our team today.
Secondary school students are likely to experience a range of new experiences, worries and stressors as they transition through their teen years – so it’s essential that schools provide support and guidance to ensure their mental health and wellbeing is protected.
Talking to Teens About Pornography
It’s important for teens to know that it’s okay to ask questions about pornography and have open discussions about this topic. We must emphasise to them that having honest, age-appropriate conversations about sex and relationships can help them make informed decisions in the future. Parents, guardians, and teachers are also encouraged to provide a safe space for young people to express their concerns and ask questions, free from judgement or embarrassment.
Having an open dialogue can also help ensure young people understand that the depictions of sexuality in pornography are often far removed from reality. Not only are many scenes unrealistic or exaggerated, with actors performing scripted activities that may not reflect real-world behaviours, but they also rarely depict the challenges associated with consent and communication within intimate relationships. It’s important for young people to understand that porn may set up unrealistic expectations of what couples do in relationships – discussions around this topic should focus on helping children realise there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to sexual expression.
ICENA’s Talking to Young People About Pornography course provides educators with the tools and resources needed to discuss pornography in an open and non-judgemental manner. We equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, guidance and age-appropriate framework to talk openly and comfortably about porn with their students.
The Impact of Porn on Relationships
Viewing porn at a young age can blur the lines between pleasure and violence, and lead to distorted beliefs about what a healthy relationship looks like. It can also lead to confusion around the concept of consent, as well as warped expectations and a lack of understanding when it comes to real-world relationships.
Often, there are degrading and objectifying depictions of people of all genders in pornography, which can shape young peoples’ expectations of behaviour, leading to damaging attitudes towards sex and relationships later in life. A study conducted by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, the NSPCC and Middlesex University found that “42% of 15-16 year olds said that pornography has given them ideas of sexual practices that they would like to emulate”. In order to successfully combat the potential harm posed by pornography, we must help young people understand how healthy relationships actually look and feel.
Addressing Common Misconceptions About Porn
Many young people may not have had the opportunity to have open discussions about pornography and relationships before, so the first step is to provide a safe space for dialogue. This should involve addressing common misconceptions, such as thinking that porn is real or natural, or that it’s okay to watch it without considering its effects on relationships.
It’s also important to discuss that young people mature at different rates, and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable or confused when watching porn. We must emphasise that we all have our own boundaries when it comes to sex and relationships, so everyone should be encouraged to make decisions about their own sexual wellbeing.
The Importance of Online Safety for Secondary School Students
In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever for secondary school students to be aware of the potential risks that come with using the internet. In 2017 Public Health England released data from a 2014 consultation with 5,335 young people aged 11-15 years old. They found that around 18% of children within this age bracket reported being bullied online within the 2 months prior to the survey. So, it’s essential that young people are taught about their online safety and how to protect themselves from cyberbullying, identity theft, and other potential risks.
Schools should provide comprehensive training on the importance of creating strong passwords, staying alert when posting personal information or pictures online, and understanding how to navigate privacy settings. Educators should also raise awareness around spotting signs of grooming or exploitation via social media or other platforms, so children can stay safe while navigating the web.
To aid in the safety of young people online, ICENA have created a course titled “Talking to key stage 3 – 5 children/young people about online safety” which provides teachers with the skills and resources to help educate secondary school students on these topics.
Introduction to Sexual & Domestic Violence for Secondary School Students
With adult relationships largely being informed by how we perceive sex and relationships as teenagers, it’s important to equip secondary school students with the knowledge and understanding of what constitutes healthy relationships.
This is especially true when it comes to sexual and domestic violence. While these topics can be difficult to discuss, it’s vital that young people are educated on the warning signs of unhealthy behaviours, such as controlling behaviour or emotional abuse – so they can make informed decisions about their own wellbeing if faced with an abusive partner.
As secondary school students begin romantic relationships through their teen years, they should be taught the meaning of mutual respect and consent, as well as how to identify sexual coercion or manipulation. Schools have an important role in providing age-appropriate education on these topics, so young people can recognise signs of abuse and know where to seek help if needed.
Our Introduction to Sexual and Domestic Violence training course ensures that you’ll have the ability to define sexual and domestic violence. You’ll also feel confident enough to challenge common myths surrounding domestic abuse and sexual violence and gain an understanding of the potential impacts on the survivors, their personal and professional connections. You will learn how to properly respond in case of disclosure of domestic abuse or sexual violence and become aware of the available local services for cases like this.
With a range of further resources and training courses available for Secondary schools, get in touch today to discuss how we can help create safer and more equitable environments for young people.
Further Education & University
University and further education is a crucial stage of development for young people, with many students leaving home for the first time and facing new challenges both academically and socially.
It’s important to ensure students have access to reliable support during their studies – from mental health services and financial advice, to sexual violence or harassment guidance. Universities are responsible for providing safe learning spaces which enable students to succeed and reach their full potential.
Being an Active Bystander
Part of creating safe environments for young people involves empowering them to recognise when something isn’t right and take action.
Schools, universities and colleges should teach students the importance of being an active bystander – or speaking up if they witness a friend or peer feeling uncomfortable or in danger. This could include friends that are at risk from cyberbullying, violence, or those who may be experiencing abuse or harassment.
By teaching students about the power of intervention, young people can learn how to look out for one another and take responsibility for their actions – ultimately creating safer learning environments and preventing abuse before it starts.
Within our library of training courses, we offer Bystander training for 15-25 year olds, allowing them to feel confident in being an Active Bystander, understanding who can be a bystander, recognising the indicators, know when to intervene and have the skills to safely intervene, challenge and stand-up to violence in all its forms.
Recognising When Someone Needs Help
Intervening in a situation where someone is feeling uncomfortable or in danger can be difficult and often comes with a range of barriers. Commonly, bystanders may feel uncomfortable about intervening for fear of being seen as intrusive, misunderstood or not having enough knowledge to help the individual. Others may worry that intervening could lead to physical harm or even further distress for the person they’re trying to help.
In order to overcome these barriers, it’s important that young people are given understanding and support when it comes to being an active bystander. This includes ensuring they have access to information and education on how best to intervene safely and responsibly – as well as providing them with resources they can use if they do decide to intervene.
For example, universities and colleges should have clear policies in place which outline the appropriate behaviour expected from students when it comes to identifying and tackling sexual violence or harassment within their community.
This will provide students with the confidence that their actions will be taken seriously should they choose to step in. Schools also need to ensure that these policies are communicated effectively so young people know what kind of support is available should they witness any form of unacceptable behaviour.
Creating a Safer Space
Creating a safe and supportive environment for everyone is essential in order to ensure the wellbeing of students, faculty and staff alike. It’s important for Universities to implement policies that promote respect and equality amongst all members of the community.
Schools should be providing comprehensive and ongoing training for both staff and students so that everyone is aware of their rights when it comes to reporting any kind of mistreatment or harassment. Providing comprehensive education about sexual violence is also essential in helping young people learn about consent, healthy relationships, gender inequality and cyberbullying prevention.
Creating inclusive environments where everyone feels respected is key in creating an environment free from any form of discrimination or abuse. Schools need to ensure that all members of their community feel welcome no matter what their gender identity, race or ethnicity may be.
Active bystander behaviour can take many forms, from directly intervening in a situation to simply speaking up and expressing concern. An example of bystander behaviour in real life could be speaking out against derogatory language or a derogatory joke. By calling attention to this kind of language, the bystander is demonstrating their commitment to creating a safe and respectful learning environment.
In some cases, bystanders may also choose to physically intervene if they witness any form of violence or abuse. This could include separating two people who are arguing or physically shielding someone from harm. In other situations, bystanders may choose to go one step further and reach out for help from authorities such as law enforcement or school administrators.
Active bystanders can serve as allies and advocates for those who are subjected to harassment or abuse. By being vocal about issues that affect a particular group of people – such as racial injustice or sexism – bystanders can show their support for those facing discrimination and marginalisation.
What To Do if You See Something Wrong
When it comes to intervening in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation, it’s important to first assess the potential risks before taking any action. Before intervening, individuals should consider their own safety and the safety of those around them. In some cases, it may be best to contact professionals such as law enforcement if the situation is deemed too dangerous.
If the person feels safe enough to intervene, they should ensure that they’re not putting themselves in a vulnerable position and that they can handle the situation appropriately. It’s also important to remember that intervening does not necessarily have to be direct – people can also act as bystanders and choose to speak up when something is wrong without getting involved directly. Speaking up about a situation can be an effective way to show support for those affected without putting yourself at risk.
Individuals should also remember that there are many ways you can intervene in a situation safely and responsibly, including using body language and tone of voice to show disapproval for unacceptable behaviour, creating distractions so the individual causing harm can be removed from the space, reaching out for help from authorities such as law enforcement or school administrators, and providing support and resources for those affected by inappropriate behaviour.
Discussing Consent at Universities
As young people transition into college and university, it’s important that they understand the importance of consent in all interactions. Consent is defined as an agreement between two or more people to engage in any kind of sexual or non-sexual activity. In order for sexual contact to be consensual, all parties must be willing and enthusiastic participants who have not been coerced or forced in any way.
It’s also important to remind students that consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter – it cannot simply be assumed once given at the beginning. Individuals should always check in with their partners to make sure all parties are still comfortable with continuing the activity. If there’s ever any doubt about whether consent has been given, individuals should stop immediately and seek clarification from their partner.
ICENA’s Introduction to consent for 15-25 year olds training course is designed to help young people develop a better understanding of consent, respect and healthy relationships. The aim of this session is to open up a discussion about issues of consent in romantic and sexual relationships and to allow young people to explore their own views, societal views and the law.
University is a period of transition and exploration, and discussions about consent and other topics are an important part of this process. For further information on which training courses we provide for Universities, please get in touch today.
How to Discuss Sensitive Topics With Children & Young Adults
Open discussions are a pivotal part of helping children and young adults understand sensitive topics. Through open conversations, individuals can gain insights into the perspectives and experiences of others, while also developing their own views on the subject. Questions are a great way to start these conversations – they can help to steer the conversation in the right direction and can lead to more meaningful connections.
When discussing sensitive topics with children and young adults, it’s important to remain mindful of the language used and any potential triggers that may arise during the conversation. For example, when talking about topics such as racial injustice or sexual violence, it’s important to be sensitive about framing these issues in a respectful manner that avoids judgement. It can be beneficial to use examples when possible in order to provide additional context for understanding the topic at hand.
Open discussions can help to foster empathy and create a space for individuals to explore their own opinions on difficult topics without fear of judgement or criticism. This type of dialogue encourages a more thoughtful approach towards understanding complex issues and allows participants to gain valuable perspectives from those around them. By engaging in open dialogue, individuals learn how to better articulate their thoughts and form well-rounded arguments that can be used in wider conversations both within their communities and beyond.
At ICENA, we’re a non-profit social enterprise that provides training and consultancy services. Our aim is to change attitudes, beliefs, and practices, and to promote equal access to resources and opportunities. We offer practical and interactive training or consultancy that’s tailored to the specific needs of your educational institution. With many years of experience in the sexual violence, health, and well-being sectors, we provide comprehensive and evidence-based services with measurable results.
Whereas schools educate young people on subjects like puberty, contraception, and sex education, we provide bespoke training that covers areas such as understanding consent and healthy relationships. Our team can help you to make sure students have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
We have an extensive range of training courses for the educational sector. If you’re interested in learning more about our services or would like to book a course for your educational institution, please contact us today to discuss how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a basic definition of consent?
Consent is the voluntary, informed and enthusiastic agreement to engage in a particular activity. Both parties must be fully aware of what they are consenting to, with the ability to make an informed decision without any external pressures or coercion.
What does it mean to be an active bystander?
An active bystander is someone who intervenes in a situation where they feel that something wrong or potentially dangerous is occurring. This can be stepping in when witnessing bullying for example. Active bystanders are not just limited to physical interventions – they can also use their voice to speak out against injustice.
What’s the importance of having discussions about pornography?
They provide an opportunity to discuss the impact of porn on relationships, sexuality, gender and body image. Having these conversations can help young people understand the messages that porn is sending and empower them to make informed decisions around their own sexual health choices.
What can I do to help someone who is getting bullied?
If you witness someone being bullied, step in and try to defuse the situation. Speak to the person(s) who is bullying and explain how their behaviour is wrong and needs to stop. It’s important to also ensure that the person being bullied feels supported – talk to them afterwards, check-in with them regularly, and offer your help if needed.
Get in touch
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Please note that we are not a frontline organisation. If you or someone you know needs urgent help following a sexual assault, visit the Rape Crisis website for a list of services that will be able to help you.