Sunday 13 October 2019

Time to take back the lead on safety of our young

Stock photo
Stock photo
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

What do you wish for when you wish for a child? You wish for them to be happy and healthy - perhaps wealthy - and that you yourself will be wise enough to help them navigate the choppy waters as they grow.

From your own childhood you have an idea - friendships, bullies and academic pressures, relationships, peer pressure, health, alcohol and, more recently, drugs.

You hope that you raise your child to have the courage to make good choices, when all around them are doing otherwise. And when you have done all you could possibly do for them, you have to just hope they will be OK.

Then something comes along for which you have no roadmap, no insight into, and no access to, and you go from being a diligent crewman on your child's ship to stranded on the shore. For this generation of parents, that something is social media.

I read all the scare stories of the negative influence social media is having on young people. The social pressures, the self-harm, the isolation, the Fomo. I read all the enabling stories about how great social media is for our young people. I try to embrace the future. I try to make informed decisions.

But it feels less like I'm raising children and more like I'm going into battle against a shapeshifting behemoth that has the world in its thrall.

Perhaps this is the same as it ever was - the previous generation failing to understand the next. Or perhaps it is a crisis of childhood the likes of which we have never before experienced.

I read about an 11-year-old girl who indicated her intention to take own life via Instagram. An 11-year-old girl who wrote "beautiful girls don't eat" on her arm. An 11-year-old girl who will remain forever 11.

Milly Tuomey's parents say she appeared happy and was not being bullied, which makes her suicide more startling.

Experts warn of youngsters' 'more highly lethal' methods of self-harm than previously. It is not known yet if this is connected to exposure to social media.

But as parents, and adults, I fear we are being left behind in the brave new world.

Followers, they call them on social media. Maybe it's time to take back the lead.

Irish Independent

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