Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Pupils get advice to 'delay sex'

sex education booklet
The life skills subject - PSHE is to become compulsory from 2011

School children in England are to be given advice designed to protect them from feeling pressurised into becoming sexually active at too early an age.

The updated curriculum for sex education emphasises the need to protect children from being "bullied" by a sexualised culture.

The guidance promotes "the value of delaying sexual experiences".

There is also an emphasis on marriage and stable relationships as the "bedrock of family life".

These latest guidelines, being put out for consultation, will become part of personal, social, health and economic education - PSHE - which the government wants to be made compulsory by 2011.

Primary and secondary pupils will have to study the subject - with topics such as sex education, as at present, being adapted for each age group.

Mobile phones

The updated guidance on sex and relationship education will warn pupils about the pressures of a media culture in which images of sexuality are so pervasive.

"In the 21st Century, children and young people are also exposed to sexual imagery and content in a wide array of media including adverts, the internet, video games, mobile phones, pop songs, TV and magazines," say the guidelines.

"These media often present a distorted and inaccurate view of sex and relationships, and provide increasingly explicit images of sex and sexuality."

As an example of how technology can be used to bully young people, it warns of the risks of teenagers sending "revealing photographs" of themselves on mobile phones to their boyfriends or girlfriends.

Last week, both Labour and the Conservatives put out proposals pledging support for the family.

These guidelines make a point of highlighting the significance of marriage and "the challenges and responsibilities of parenthood".

And the guidance promises advice to help "young people stand up to pressures to lose their virginity".

"Young people today grow up in a very different world to the one their parents knew as children," says Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

"New technologies and a 24-hour media mean that young people are increasingly exposed to images and content that can make them feel pressure to be sexually active before they are ready and can give them misleading information about relationships and growing up.

"We also want young people to understand the importance of marriage and other stable relationships - these are the bedrock of family life, the best way to bring up children and the kind of relationships we want young people to develop as they get older," says Mr Balls.

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