Teens, Teachers, Sexual Consent and Smartphones

Things change so rapidly today, it is so difficult to keep up with all that is evolving and transforming on an almost daily basis in our modern world. Long gone are the times when young people conformed, parents were obeyed and teachers, along with priests and doctors, were seen as the pillars of society. That in itself is no bad thing. Many of the dark stains on our society that have been revealed in recent times, from the horrors of institutional sexual abuse, to the Tuam Babies scandal, were born out of ignorance, fear and abuse of power. We like to see ourselves as an informed and modern community where social media permutates all and the smart phone is the new bible. However, in our headlong rush to embrace Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder we are now beginning to see how exposed we are leaving ourselves, with our young people being particularly vulnerable. Recent events in the media and in the court rooms have highlighted the very serious issues which are facing our sons and daughters, nephews and nieces and students and teens today. Cyber bullying is now an ever-present, twenty-four-seven threat due to social media. Issues such as body image and appearance are dictated by photo shopped celebrities, leading to depression and anxiety. Sexual consent and education is often more informed by porn sites and peer pressure than by knowledgeable parents and enlightened sex education programmes. On top of all of this, you all too often have all of these issues being drowned in a binge drink culture that blurs everything. It is far, far more difficult being a young person today than ever it was, despite all of the opportunities that modern life and technology offers.

As parents our response to this is often one of bewilderment and confusion, with a feeling that we do not have control of what our young people are being involved in. Handing smart phones out as Communion presents does not help. Meanwhile, teachers in schools feel overwhelmed in an attempt to deal with many issues which arise from all of this. The temptation can be to stick our heads in the sand, but that is never going to solve this problem. We need to become brave enough to become informed and involved and influence, in a positive way, decisions and behaviours our teens are involved in.

With this in mind, we at accessschoolsdirect.ie are organising a series of blogs in the coming weeks from a number of professional experts in these areas where they will give their insights into the issues facing young people today, and their proposed solutions. Francis O’Toole is a career guidance teacher and counsellor in Loreto Navan who has just published ‘Walking On Air’, which focuses on teenage resilience and wellbeing. Monaco Rowe had a long involvement with the ISPCC and as co-founder of ‘Key Conversations’, speaks to over 30,000 students each year on issues such including communications, cyber bullying and smart phone use. Alex Walsh, a former policeman, works in empowering young people to be more self-aware through his company ‘Personal Safety’. Grainne Carr has wide experience in delivering consent information to Third Level students and is about to do likewise with second level schools. We hope that others will contribute and will be delighted if any of you reading this will get in touch with accessschoolsdirect.ie to offer your say in any of these topics. We want to start an informed debate that can help us as parents and s teachers to better guide our young people on these topics today. Our hope to run a conference on these topics early in the new school year and we will keep you informed on these developments. Please check us out at accessschoolsdirect.ie. We look forward to hearing what you have to say! Thank you for listening.

Finian O'Connor

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