Naked Education: why claims that Channel 4 show 'promotes child abuse' are nonsense

Channel 4 show Naked Education has been the subject of more than 900 complaints with some saying series ‘promotes child abuse’
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Ofcom received 930 complaints following the release of the first episode of Naked Education on 4 April. The part of the episode that viewers seem to have taken most issue with was a part where a group of teenagers were taught about body hair, demonstrated by a group of naked adults.

Many more viewers also took to social media to complain about the show - comedian Andrew Lawrence claimed the series ‘flagrantly normalises child abuse.

Another tweeted: “These kids all experienced trauma right in front of us.  Innocence lost forever”, whilst one person claimed “Channel 4 is sick by design.”

Some viewers also took issue with the time that the show is broadcast - the series airs at 8pm, before the UK watershed and suggested that if the programme is going to air it should at least be broadcast after 9pm. 

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, before deciding whether or not to investigate.” 

Ofcom received more than 900 complaints over Naked EducationOfcom received more than 900 complaints over Naked Education
Ofcom received more than 900 complaints over Naked Education

Does Naked Education deserve the backlash?

Whilst Naked Education may not be faultless, it doesn’t help that some news sites decided to run misleading headlines such as ‘kids in tears after seeing adults strip off’.

Defending the series, Channel 4’s chief content officer, Ian Katz, tweeted: “Anyone who suggests that the Channel 4 show Naked Education promotes paedophilia or is abusive of children almost certainly hasn’t watched it.”

Katz certainly has a point - anyone who hasn’t seen the show but has read headlines like the one mentioned above, could well believe that the series was harmful to young children. Having actually watched the show, it’s hard to reach the same conclusion.

The ‘kids’, who are aged 14-16 years old, didn’t cry because they were disturbed as seeing an adult strip. One girl who did tear up on the series did so because the nude adult’s messages of body acceptance hit home.

Millie, 16, said "People shouldn't be judged for the way they are. It's just wrong". Millie also got upset thinking that her younger sister would grow up to be judged based on how she looks, and her younger brother would have warped expectations based on what he sees online.

So it doesn’t sound like the teens involved in the show were traumatised by seeing a diverse bunch of body confident people strip off in a controlled setting before explaining to them why they look the way they do.

Millie was moved by her experience on Naked EducationMillie was moved by her experience on Naked Education
Millie was moved by her experience on Naked Education

Naked Education likely isn’t a show designed to appeal to my demographic, and it’s not something that I particularly cared for, but it absolutely doesn’t promote child abuse, let alone paedophilia as some viewers have suggested.

The biggest crime of the Channel 4 series is that it’s very cringey, far too sickly sweet, and preachy in its message. The teens behave in the same way that schoolchildren have behaved in sex education classes for time immemorial, they inevitably burst out in fits of giggles.

Ultimately, Naked Education promotes the central message that you shouldn’t judge someone based on how they look, whilst also teaching young people important things about men and women’s bodies, hygiene, and safe sexual behaviour. Even at my most pearl-clutching, this is no bad message.

Should Naked Education air after the watershed?

According to Ofcom guidelines there’s no inherent need for Naked Education to air after the watershed, though it could be an appropriate compromise. Ofcom states that content unsuitable to air before the watershed includes: “everything from sexual content to violence, graphic or distressing imagery and swearing.”

Whilst Naked Education features nudity and plenty of discussion about sex, it doesn’t contain any sexual content. Because we’re not used to seeing nudity on terrestrial TV before 9pm it is surprising that the show is able to air at 8pm, but as an educational series it’s entirely appropriate.

Moving the series to an 9pm slot may help to appease some of the perpetually offended, but it would also detract from the one of the aims of the show, which is to normalise the conversations that Naked Education has.

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