Sex education has long been a standard subject in Norwegian schools. Now a nationwide science-oriented TV program for children and youth is getting international attention for its explicit approach to instruction about the birds and the bees.
In one of its episodes about puberty, the show on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s Newton program uses life-size plastic models to show how sexual intercourse takes place. Program leader (anchor) Line Jansrud also speaks cheerfully about how children’s bodies and brains change in all kinds of ways, with the help of more visual aids.
NRK, which is Norway’s state-financed public broadcaster, called the program that targets young viewers aged eight to 12 “a good alternative to ignorance and uncertainty.” Jansrud speaks openly about sex, how orgasm can occur, how babies can be conceived and why birth control can be important. “We are contributing an open and professional tone around natural processes,” NRK editors Kirsti Moe and Cathrine Simonsen wrote in a joint commentary published on NRK.no, which features the video clip from Newton (external link, in Norwegian).
The clip has caught attention, not least in the US, where sex education classes remain a sensitive subject. “We’re not overly surprised, but international attention wasn’t something we expected,” Moe told NRK. “Our media strategy applied to Norwegians.” She does hope that the program can prompt more discussion about sex education worldwide.
“We’re not sure why the program is spreading around the world, but it can be because it’s still taboo to talk about the human body and sexuality with children,” she said. An assistant professor at the University of Oslo, Deborah Lynn Kitchen-Døderlein, also pointed out that in the US, there are huge differences regarding religion and culture within the population, and sex education remains controversial.
NRK’s Newton program does begin with a warning about its content, but only that parents and other adults might find it embarrassing, not necessarily its young viewers.