Teenagers are growing up in a virtual world, and technology has become an integral part of their education, communication and relationships.
This is a reality that the Sexual Health Centre in Cork has embraced. The Centre has today (Tuesday) launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the issues that teens may come up against online in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Digital and social media has opened up a world of opportunity for young people by enabling them to stay informed and connected, more than any generation before them,” noted the Centre’s manager, Catherine Kennedy.
“As much of the virtual world is difficult to regulate, it is important that young people are given unbiased, up to date information regarding the relationships and behaviours that they encounter, and engage in, online.
“The ‘Screen-age Kicks’ guide was inspired by the National Youth Council of Ireland’s 2016 report on the ‘Screenagers’ international research project, which included consultations with young people regarding their experiences of social and digital media in the youth work setting.
“While young people today experience the very same curiosity and self-exploration as their parents did as teens, this period of discovery has now been moved to the online world.
“The rate at which technology has grown in recent years has also meant that parents are often left to play catch-up when it comes to their teenagers’ development.
“The ‘Screen-age Kicks’ guide deals with topics such as ‘trolling’, ‘sexting’, communication skills, consent, and porn. Parents and youth workers need to be equipped to approach these issues in an informed and practical manner.
Ms. Kennedy highlighted the need for guidance around teen health and relationships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures:
“As young people have been spending more time at home and online, issues around online relationships, consent and porn have come to the fore.
“Many Irish teens and parents have not been given the tools or guidance to deal with these issues during the pandemic, and the Sexual Health Centre is seeking to bridge that gap.
“The Sexual Health Centre has adapted all of its services – for example, youth workshops and counselling services are now taking place online and over the phone, and a free condom mail-out system is in operation.
“Throughout the pandemic, all of our staff have continued to be totally committed to meeting clients’ needs and ensuring service delivery with no bias, no judgement, and no exception,” concluded Ms. Kennedy.
The Sexual Health Centre provides free virtual workshops on relationships and sexual health, for young people.