Teens and porn - We need to move with the times

All too often, parents in the past were lulled into a false sense of security that their children were occupied watching television, but it was largely controlled. Now children have the added distractions of video games or the internet, which is essentially unmonitored, because they can expose children to dangerous levels of explicit sex and violence.

Children are frequently more adept at finding their way around the internet than their parents. They can find things that their parents could probably never find.

“Every parent gives out about the next generation,” proclaimed one of the boys interviewed in today’s feature on sex, porn and teens. “The past generation probably did the exact same stuff.”

Many of the earlier generations might have liked to, but they were never exposed to the dangers and temptations of the present generation. It is important that society should recognise those dangers and understand them. Some of the comments of the young people in relation to the availability of pornography indicate that it is more readily available than many of the older generations might realise. “You can’t escape it,” one boy said. This is undoubtedly putting extra pressure on children.

A report published this week by the Rape Crisis Network and Children at Risk in Ireland, noted that over 4,000 calls were made to the Dublin Rape Crisis helpline last year. People are probably more exposed to sexual violence than ever.

The report indicated that 37% of those abusing children in this country are children themselves. Studies have found that, if treated promptly, only 8% to 10% of those would likely become repeat offenders. Unfortunately, there are only three treatment centres in the country and those are in Dublin or Galway.

The internet can be readily accessed anywhere in the country, and the problems are certainly not confined to Dublin and Galway. If we are serious about tackling the problems of child abuse, it is imperative that the problems should be tackled promptly without a geographic lottery.

The difficulties that young people face are undoubtedly much more extensive than most people realise. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland yesterday released a report indicating that one in three people in this country is likely to experience some form of mental disorder by the age of 13, and that figure jumps to more than one in two by the age of 24.

It is alarming to learn that over half, or 56%, of young Irish adults are at increased risk of a mental illness. That compares with 52% in the United States, 39% in Germany, and 44% in the United Kingdom.

This helps explain why so many young people are deliberately harming themselves and why so many have experienced suicidal thoughts. By the age of 24 up to one in five young people will have experienced suicidal thoughts.

In light of those figures, no one should be surprised at the alarming growth of suicides. It is important to develop a strategy to tackle these matters at source and not deceive ourselves into thinking that we do not already have serious problems.

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