PTC warns parents of Netflix series 'Sex Education' that depicts teens in sexual situations

The Netflix logo is seen at the Netflix Tudum Theater in Los Angeles, California, on September 14, 2022.
The Netflix logo is seen at the Netflix Tudum Theater in Los Angeles, California, on September 14, 2022. | PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

An organization that advocates for a safe media environment for children is warning parents about a Netflix series that shows youth in sexual situations, as well as pornographic imagery. 

The Parents and Television Media Council has been raising awareness about the Netflix series “Sex Education” since the first season aired in 2019. The series tells the story of a socially awkward high school boy who sets up an underground sex therapy clinic for his classmates. 

The show has entered its final season this year, which PTC Vice President Melissa Henson hopes is a sign that the series is ending due to waning audience interest or no interest at all. Even though she doubts Netflix will develop a sequel series to “Sex Education,” Henson has raised concerns that shows like this one represent a “troubling pattern” of Netflix putting out content that depicts minors in highly sexualized situations. 

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Actors in the series “Sex Education” were people of age playing minors; however, Henson still sees a problem with adults pretending to be underage youth in sexual situations. She raised similar concerns with the series “Big Mouth,” an adult cartoon that the PTC vice president said has grown actors voicing minors that encounter sexual scenarios. 

Henson also highlighted the controversy that followed Netflix streaming the French film “Cuties,” a movie that led to members of Congress urging the Department of Justice to investigate the streaming service to find out whether it violated any federal laws by distributing the film that sexualizes 11-year-old girls and promotes the normalization of pedophilia. Others had asked what the nearly 70 underage girls who auditioned for the movie had been asked to do during their auditions and where those tapes are now. 

 Unlike "Sex Education," in "Cuties," Henson noted that the actors were underage girls. 

Netflix did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment for this article. 

The PTC vice president warned that the people watching shows like “Sex Education” are usually middle schoolers or high schoolers, who might find something relatable to identify with that keeps them watching. 

“But then they’re presenting kids who are watching this with this notion of, 'Oh, it’s OK to be promiscuous; it’s OK to be sexually adventurous, and it’s OK to engage in these sorts of high-risk, low commitment encounters,'” Henson said. “And that’s the sort of message that they’re giving young viewers.” 

“The only other scenario that I can think of is that they’re really targeting this to adults, not kids,” she continued. “In which case, they’re encouraging adults to view these minor characters as sexually adventurous and willing to engage in these behaviors that are pretty advanced and far outside the norm for the average middle schooler or high schooler.” 

On its website, PTC urges people to sign an open letter to Netflix investors to hold the streaming service accountable for “sexualizing” children’s entertainment. PTC also announced that it plans to petition U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to see if Netflix had violated federal laws related to child sex, indecency and human trafficking. 

According to Henson, PTC delivered petitions around a year ago; however, the organization has not received a response from the Department of Justice aside from a brief clarifying question from a field office looking for more data. 

PTC is not aware of any ongoing investigation at this point, according to Henson, and the PTC vice president remarked that it’s “disappointing” to see that the DOJ is not doing more to protect children. 

While Henson acknowledged that, as a streaming service, Netflix is not bound by the same federal broadcasting laws against indecency that restrict the content television networks such as ABC or NBC can show, Netflix is still subject to federal laws prohibiting the distribution of sexual material involving minors. 

Regarding whether someone could simply choose not to watch sexually explicit material on Netflix, Henson contends that someone refusing to tune into a show they find inappropriate doesn’t mean the program will not have a negative impact on their children. She warned that children could still be influenced by other peers who have been encouraged to act sexually due to what they have seen on television. 

“How do you protect your children when this type of behavior is becoming mainstream?” she asked. 

The PTC vice president asserted that, at “minimum,” Netflix should have stronger parental controls. While she noted that Netflix has some parental controls, Henson highlighted ways that the streaming service could improve them. 

According to Henson, Netflix subscribers can scroll through the streaming service’s menu options, and they will see kids’ entertainment next to the content intended for adults. Another issue Henson found with the platform is that adult cartoons that initially seem like they’d be appropriate for children to watch are easy for them to access on Netflix.

“You should have the ability to say that this is not in a category of content that I will ever want to see in my home. I don’t even want to see it on the menu,” she said. “I do not want my child to know that this program exists.” 

For Henson, the ideal parental controls on Netflix would allow parents to filter out titles or categories they don’t want their kids to watch. She also argued that children should not be able to switch to the adult section without first entering a passcode, a feature that the PTC vice president believes should be the default setting on all streaming services. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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