Over the last few weeks I have spent considerable time visiting primary, post primary and special needs schools talking to children, youth, teachers and parents in counties Clare and Galway on Cyberbullying and Internet Safety.
My work coincided with the lead-up to Mental Health Week.
Thankfully I have so far got very good feedback from the schools that I have visited (see comments below).
Due to a growing disconnect with Nature, too much time spent indoors, an over-reliance on smart devices, peer pressure to conform, body image, exam pressures, stress, lack of job security, isolation, easy access to drugs and cheap alcohol, 20% of our young people in Ireland are suffering from mental health issues. in 2013, circa 7,000 young people harmed themselves.
I always promote the importance of fostering a sense of community, of place, of self-esteem and of belonging; and that we have to look out for each other. In an increasingly disconnected urban sprawl environment, we need to bring the interdependence 'Meitheal' spirit of old rural Ireland into the 21st century city.
Most crucial is that we should always talk to some one we trust if we are experiencing pain including that of being bullied. Never keep a problem to oneself. We should come to each other's aid rather than ignore the humiliation of some one else out of fear of being picked on.
Whilst all ages and sexes are suffering, it is teenagers and particularly teenage girls that are increasingly becoming victims of abuse and harassment. In Iraq and elsewhere, ISIS and similar extremists are forcing captive women into sex slavery. In the West, young women are being disproportionately targetted on the Internet and forced to endure crass sexual comments and threats. Much more so than men, it is women that have been the prime victims of the World Wide Web since its early years. Teenage girls are the biggest prisoners of online porn.
In the 1990s the first well-known victim of the Web was Monica Lewinsky, who had an affair with President Bill Clinton. Whilst he was lauded by many as a 'boyo', Monica was publicly lambasted as a slut, a slag, a bitch, a whore...
Little has changed if we view the 'laddish' behaviour of American presidential candidate Donald Trump.
But it is up to all of us to tackle misogyny in all its forms, racism, sectarianism and give comfort to those that are humiliated. Stand up for each other.
Feedback from schools:
"I thought the talk was good in that everything was included to know about cyber bullying. It was sad near the end but it was valuable information that we can use for life."
"It was very helpful and I learned a lot from it. It was very interesting."
"I found the talk very interesting. I learned a lot from this talk and not to ever bully anyone."