Helping young people develop healthy relationships and sexuality

19 February 2021

How is viewing online pornography, which very often shows aggressive, non-consensual and ‘unhealthy’ or even illegal behaviour, affecting young people’s views on relationships?

  • Helping young people develop healthy relationships and sexuality image

    University of Canterbury (UC) relationship and sexuality education (RSE) expert Tracy Clelland would like all parents to talk to their children about pornography. The resources, which she has contributed to, on the Classification Office website, pictured above, are helpful.

University of Canterbury (UC) relationship and sexuality education (RSE) expert Tracy Clelland joined a panel on Plains FM’s Speak Up - Kōrerotia programme with co-hosts Sally Carlton and Anne Heins and sex counsellor Jo Robertson from The Light Project.

The hour-long conversation is enlightening and concerning, but also shows a way forward in discussing and addressing a difficult topic that can be challenging for young people, teachers and, especially, parents.

“I have a real passion for changing the kōrero around this topic,” Clelland says. “I’ve had 30 years facilitating learning in the sexuality space… and over the last few years there has been a big shift in what young people can see and how they can access information.”

Alongside being a health lecturer at UC, Clelland is also the mother of two teenage boys and discussions with them have been invaluable to her understanding of their perspective. Other young people still tell her that it is still difficult to talk about relationships and sexuality with adults.

Young people are asking questions in class around pornography, but some teachers are saying ‘it’s not something we talk about’.

“I met a teacher who said, ‘no we don’t talk about porn in our year 10 sexuality class’. So I think ‘you don’t talk about consent, healthy relationships, communication, gender expectations, ethics? Of course you do, but you are fixated on porn as a separate topic.’ But it’s not. It highlights the issues in society and we need to change that kōrero around sexuality and relationships.”

Clelland would like all parents to check out the resources, which she has contributed to, on the Classification Office website: Growing up with Porn.

A quarter of young people in New Zealand will see porn before they get to secondary school, so the message from the panel was to be proactive and initiate discussions sooner rather than later.

“Just make sure the discussions are young-person-centred and involve asking what they think. Shaming a young person only shuts down conversations,” Clelland says.

Listen to the podcast here: 2021-02-17 Influence of porn on young people's understandings of sex and relationships by Speak Up-Korerotia | Free Listening on SoundCloud

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