There is a generational gap between adults and children. There always has been and always will be. However at this specific point in history the gap is more significant than ever. We’ve all heard parents or other adults use the line; “I remember when I was your age. I know what it’s like!” This is now simply not true. We don’t know what it’s like. Childhood has changed, adolescence has changed, being a teenager and young adult has changed.
This generation of kids have been born into a world of computers, tablets, smart phones, games consoles, wireless internet and social media. They are digital natives, it all makes sense to them, it’s their reality. The older generations are digital immigrants, we didn’t grow up in this world, we don’t know what it’s like to surf the internet as a child. It’s nearly the norm for younger children to be handed a tablet or a parent’s smart phone to keep them “occupied” during down time.
I have met parents who have been experiencing difficult behavior from their children and when examining their weekly routine this includes hours playing games consoles alone in their rooms. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are just two examples of extremely violent and explicit games that children as young as 8 years old are playing even though they are certified 18. It is deemed okay as it keeps them “occupied.” Grand Theft Auto in particular includes sexual content, prostitution and violence toward women.
Pornography and social media are combining to totally change the landscape of being a teenager today. Young boys are able to access graphic pornography from a very young age and this is conditioning them in terms of their attitudes and behaviours toward sex and relationships. Young girls are having to deal with porn saturated boys who have expectations based on what they have learned from pornography.
In my recent experience as a community youth worker I have heard from young people who are dealing with the aftermath of being pressured into sending pictures to their then boyfriend, pictures which have subsequently been shared online. The emotional impact of this breach of trust and humiliation at such a vulnerable age is hard for adults to even contemplate. When we were young you had to go out to get bullied. You were safe at home.
I spoke to a 16 year old girl from Derry recently and she showed me that she has 1500 friends on Facebook most of whom she has never met. She told me that she receives requests for pictures all the time from teenage boys, this is normal. She also receives pictures, which she finds amusing. There’s a huge selection of social media sites and tools to choose from and most parents are unaware of how these work and which ones their children are using. An ominous phenomenon is that many teenage boys have a Facebook page simply to advertise their snapchat in order to receive and send images.
Parents and responsible adults need to educate themselves. Be aware, make yourself aware, make the effort. Simply saying “I haven’t a clue about those things” doesn’t wash anymore. This is serious, our children can be scarred for life right in front of our noses. Find out about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
There is also a need for better, updated, relevant education around sex and relationships for boys and girls. This should include information about pornography and explicit games and the way it influences harmful sexual attitudes and practices.
Danny Bryce … Community Youth Worker