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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Schools block sexual health sites
Young Scot web grab
School pupils are being prevented from viewing the Young Scot website
School pupils across Scotland are being denied access to sexual health websites because of internet "firewalls", a youth organisation says.

The Scottish Executive helps fund sexual health information on the net.

But Young Scot says its health message is being lost on pupils because of council-implemented internet filters which block "sex" messages.

Local council group Cosla said it wanted to help solve the problem and the executive urged greater access.

Internet filters, known as firewalls, block websites which refer to sex, sexual health or sexual relationships.

It's difficult to unblock these sites without letting undesirable materials in
Tony Waclawski
Glasgow City Council

Louise MacDonald, of Young Scot, said there is no unsuitable content on its website, but young people were being prevented from accessing its advice.

Speaking in the Sunday Herald, she added: "I can understand local authorities are concerned and nervous about inappropriate materials, but there is a wider issue here about supporting and educating young people and helping them make informed choices for themselves."

Young Scot has contacted all of Scotland's councils urging them to change their firewalls so its website can be viewed.

Glasgow City Council's health education improvement officer Tony Waclawski said it was difficult to give school pupils access to helpful websites without risking them seeing unsuitable images.

Sexual health dangers

"Schools have limits to their understanding of this process," he said.

"It's difficult to unblock these sites without letting undesirable materials in."

Scotland has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe, while infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia have been on the rise in recent years, with the latter increasing by 39% between 1999 and 2002.

The executive is committed to tackling these statistics and informing youngsters about sexual health dangers.

A spokesperson said: "The provision of internet access in schools is a matter for local authorities.

"But the executive is keen that young people have access to appropriate information on sexual health in a range of formats."

Cosla said it was keen to help schools find a way of solving the problem while still protecting children.

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