Laura Gaynor: 'We get through these years as best we can – please cut us some slack!'
'The reality is we get through these years as best we can – please cut us some slack!'
Change is happening so fast. Parents might say they have difficulty relating to young teenagers but even my friends and I – at 18 – can find it hard to understand the average 13 year old.
You look at the clothes worn by girls of that age and you just think they're so inappropriate for them. But with so many sexualised images around us all the time, it's probably to be expected that they're going to dress in such a way.
Everybody talked about Miley Cyrus and what she wore – or didn't wear – at the MTV Awards, but some of the dress and behaviour of other pop stars that would have shocked people in the past has become the norm.
People are getting less shockable and that is probably filtering down to the way young people think about sex and sexuality.
I've heard about the phenomenon of 'slut-shaming' but don't know anyone who has had direct experience of it. You could see how nasty it can get when that girl was photographed doing something [of a sexual nature] at a music festival a few weeks ago, something she will have come to regret. All the comments on social media seemed to be castigating her – especially other girls – while the boy in the picture got very little of that abuse.
I think the early teen years are very tricky ones for girls. You're leaving childhood behind and having to face up to all sorts of challenges, like starting secondary school and meeting new friends.
It can be a stressful time and once you've turned 16, you tend to be much more aware of yourself. Having to fit in and win the approval of your friends does not seem so important then. When you're that bit older, your peers tend to be more tolerant of your choices.
It can be tough for parents to keep up the lines of communications with their children, especially when they're 13 or 14, but that's the very age when teenagers need parents who are good listeners and they can feel comfortable talking about any subject – whether it's sexual matters or something else – with them.
It's a good idea for parents to acquaint themselves with social media – because that has become so important for my generation – and if they do, they're likely to see that most of our generation have no problems with the likes of Facebook or Ask.fm.
I find it frustrating when all teenagers are tarred with the same brush and when we're told that adults are always right. The reality is that we get through these years as best we can – just like generations did before us. We're trying our best – and we should be cut some slack more often.
Laura Gaynor, 18, is from Strandhill, Co Sligo, and is a first-year student at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
In conversation with John Meagher