Joint Committee on Health and Children – Youth Issues: Discussion with Comhairle na nÓg

22nd November 2012

Part 1

I thank the delegates for packing so much into their presentation. I refer to the issue of sexual health. I think the presentation emphasised sexual health over sexual relationships. My husband is Dutch and in the Netherlands much time is devoted to relationship education and awareness. Is it the case in schools that the word “sexual” makes everybody wary of dealing with this matter? Should the emphasis not be more on young people developing relationships of which sex is one aspect? I note the point about access to STI clinics. Are there issues with regard to parental consent for children and young people to access information? Is there a role for youth cafés or other spaces to allow services to be provided in a more informal setting?

I was privileged to attend the showcase organised by Comhairle na nÓg and I applaud the work of the comhairlí on the issue of mental health. I refer to the various media campaigns about youth mental health issues. I ask how awareness can be increased, because we are all agreed this is necessary.

Part 2

My point is to build on that. There is also a role for adults. We are giving one message to children about Facebook and Twitter. When adults do not act appropriately on these sites, however, we deal with it differently. We have to take on our responsibility as role models in how different social networking sites are used.

While I agree on the point of the importance of education, there is also a huge power in young people telling their peers how they deal with being trolled and that it is okay to ignore it. It can give young people solidarity that they are not alone in being trolled. When one is in a difficult situation in life and realises one is not on one’s own, it makes it easier to get through it.

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