Comment: Every child is different so opt out is vital

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the idea of children as young as 13 being encouraged to carry condoms or being warned about the risks of sharing bank notes to snort cocaine will make uncomfortable reading for most parents.

None of us likes to think about our children having sex or taking drugs. We worry about the damage they can do to themselves when they get involved in any high risk behaviour.

But any responsible parent recognises these issues have to be addressed – the only question is how, where and when that is best done.

Sticking our heads in the sand does not stop children learning about drugs and sex, it just means that they learn “the facts” from friends or on the internet, where the information they find may or may not be reliable.

There is a lot to commend the approach being taken by the council.

Their new Snapfax booklet offers information in a non-judgemental way. That is essential if children are going to take on board what they are being told.

But it does not glamorise drug taking or underage sex in any way – in fact, quite the opposite. No one could read its straightforward account of the many and various risks involved in drug taking without being put off to some degree.

But is the kind of information it contains suitable for 13-year-olds and is it the sort of message that is better delivered at home than in the classroom?

The answer is that it is almost certainly not suitable for all 13-year-olds. Children mature at different rates and are exposed to different risks depending on the lifestyle of their parents, siblings and friends.

Some will need this advice at 13, others will be better waiting. That is why the opt-out option for every parent and each school is vital.

Many parents may reasonably prefer to leave these matters for discussion in the home. But it is essential that those children whose parents are unwilling or unable to do so are not left to cope on their own.

There is good news though for parents worrying about their children entering a world awash with illegal drugs. The approach of educating children about the risks, crucially, appears to be paying off. The most authoritative research shows that drug taking among young people in Scotland is at its lowest rate in more than a decade.