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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Sexting’ workshops to be rolled out in Galway schools

Denise McNamara

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Condemning ‘sexting’ as bad behaviour will do nothing to thwart its popularity among young people – and may even harm them, according to a researcher rolling out workshops across Galway schools.

Sexting has become a real phenomenon among school children.

A study of more than 3,000 students in 30 schools earlier this year found that that 45% of sixth-year students have sent a suggestive message while 34% have sent a sext – defined as the sharing of sexual text, video, and photographic content or nudes using phones, apps and social networks.

The likelihood of sending or receiving nude pictures increases with every year of secondary school. The same study carried out by Zeeko found that 4% of first-year students have sent a sext to a non-partner whereas 34% of sixth-year students had reported doing the same.

Haley Mulligan, an education facilitator with the West Ireland Sex Education Resource (WISER) team in AIDS West, insists that sexting and nudes “is in many ways the epicentre of the sexual online digital world of young people”.

For many youths it is the modern-day flirting.

“When you think Kim Kardashian is a hero to many young people and she originally became famous for a sex tape. The whole industry of sex is internet based.

“The idea that the modern teen will explore their sexuality through the digital realm seems completely and utterly logical, although this very idea may fill parents full of dread and fear,” she states.

Many teens send the images in an act of bravado. It gives others a false sense of equality – ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’. They also mistakenly believe promises that the content will never be shared. For others it’s down to poor self-esteem.

Whatever the reasons, Haley says that labelling the practice of sexting and nudes as a ‘deviant’ act that must be stopped will have limited effect on young people, who know the risks yet continue to express themselves through images and words.

“In many ways it is similar to young people talking to strangers online. Children know the risks but still continue to communicate with strangers online – 32% of 1st Year students talked to a stranger online compared to 70% of 6th Years; 8% of 1st Years met strangers physically compared to 38% of 6th Years.

“Clearly young people know the risks, but they are driven by strong physical, psychological and social desires towards sexual expression via nudes and sexting.”

During WISER workshops on sexting and nudes delivered in city and county schools in the past year, Hayley has always been struck by how quickly so many of the students jump to blame the sender of the nude pics – rather than the person who distributed it publicly and those who continued to share it.

“If we continue to assume that ‘stupid’ girls send nudes then not only are we perpetuating the idea that there is something inherently wrong and deviant about women’s sexuality and sexual expression, we are also failing our boys by ignoring the potential harms that can arise from young boys sharing images online,” states Hayley.

Vilifying the sender of sexual images may induce feelings of fear, embarrassment, isolation or shame and demonising the practice may adversely impact how the young person feels about their sexuality or sexual expression.

Instead the emphasis should be on empathy, says the PhD candidate in the NUIG School of Law.

“It’s about flipping it and showing you have compassion with the young person who has made a mistake,” urges Hayley.

“Unless they feel that empathy they won’t come forward in the event of an image being shared on social media. And they really must go to a parent, trusted adult or the Gardaí if that happens and not feel they are alone.”

For girls who have their privacy violated it is the public shaming that can be the most devastating.

“It’s the name calling that hurts. it’s the isolation that hurts. it’s the branding of her a particular ‘type’ of girl that hurts.”

Break ups can lead to private images being shared. In the workshops, facilitators urge young people to delete all provocative images in the event of a relationship split “because it’s the right thing to do”.

■ For details of workshops log onto bewiser.ie.

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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