Bandon youth café blames closure on impact of social media on teens

A popular youth café launched by Boyzone singer Shane Lynch has closed its doors — primarily due to the impact of social media and smartphones.

Bandon’s Funky Fish Youth Café began offering leisure facilities to teenagers in 2006 but has been forced to close because of a lack of interest.

According to its former coordinator, Keith Kingston, things have changed over the past year or so with organisers noticing fewer and fewer young people were using the centre “no matter what we did to promote it”.

“We simply could not turn it around,” he said, noting up to 25 young people would use the café on an average weekday but, in recent months, numbers fell dramatically.

He said no more than three or four people were calling over an afternoon.

When the café at St Finbarr’s Place was established, it was a thriving social hub for local teens. Designed and named by teenagers from the four local second-level schools, it was immensely popular.

Painted in bright, eye-catching mix of colours and serving a range of coffees, smoothies, milkshakes, ice cream, muffins, and soups, the premises offered a variety of entertainment.

However, the impact of social media, and the immediacy of technology meant, it seems, that young people no longer needed to be out and about so much.

“When it was set up there were a lot of teenagers around and it was to provide a place for them to meet, but a lot of people were saying that over the last few years the numbers of teenagers hanging around town had dropped — we think the reason for this is technology,” said Mr Kingston.

They are so connected online that they don’t have the same need to get out of the house and come to meet their friends downtown — that is the only explanation I can come up with.

Teens had dropped in to play pool or table tennis, some listened to or played music, while others practised on musical instruments available at the cafe which also offered a PlayStation, an X-Box and organised day trips and workshops.

“However, as the numbers dropped and people came less regularly, it was harder to organise,” Mr Kingston said. “It was a great programme, A lot of volunteers worked hard to make it the success it was but social media and technology seem to be taking over — that’s my take on it.

“I’d like to acknowledge the goodwill towards the project over the years — a lot of people gave of their time and donated money to support it. It involved a huge amount of investment by the local community in recent years.”

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