Wednesday 26 October 2016

A bamboozled AITR (Adult in the Room)

Published 21/09/2015 | 02:30

ISPCC CEO Grainia Long
ISPCC CEO Grainia Long

Ever seen MSNUWP in a text? No. I have't either. Or P911? Perhaps if you saw ADIDAS in a text on your teen's phone you would be delighted that they were showing some interest in sport. Wrong. That is the acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex. And P911 means Parent Alert. If it changes to 99 that means the parent is no longer watching. And if the parent is no longer watching it might be time for GNOC which is a straightforward request to Get Naked On Camera.

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It has always been the case with early sexual experimentation that one is influenced by what one thinks one's peers do. We overestimate. At all stages in life we are prone to thinking that others are having far more exciting and adventurous sex lives than we are.

The "everybody else is doing it" argument for having sex used to come into play in late teens or early twenties. No more. The ISPCC recently reported that over 30,000 young people contacted Childline last year for help with sexual matters, with girls as young as 10 feeling pressurised to have sex. And worryingly the Chief Executive, Grainia Long, said that the advice this child was getting from her peers was that if she didn't do what she was being asked she risked losing the boyfriend. The calls she reported are coming from younger and younger children, with many now being made by children who are not yet in their teens and indeed not even in secondary school.

We are living in an increasingly sexualised culture, with teen pop idols wearing little and being outrageously suggestive. Add to that social media, sexting, and the fact that over 20 per cent of children have viewed sexual imagery online which they are then tempted or pressurised to imitate and you have huge potential for youngsters to engage in behaviour which they will later regret. It may be sending an explicit image to someone they know and trust. Or to someone they do not know. GAP is code for Got A Pic and if it is accompanied by WYRN (What is Your Real Name) then alarm bells should be ringing very loudly.

The majority of Irish adults view pornography online at least occasionally, and apparently sometimes with children in the room! There is probably no worse way to learn about sexual behaviour than by watching pornography. Firstly it focuses on a very limited range of behaviours usually without any relationship context. And secondly women are portrayed as mindless creatures put on earth to pleasure men 24/7.

We are not going to turn back the technology clock. Nor will we turn back the sexual imagery tide. Parents need to understand the pressures on their youngsters so that they can minimise the chances of them doing something very foolish. That will involve conversations that not all adults will be comfortable with.

By the way MSNUWP means Mini Skirt No Underwear Please.

Sunday Independent

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