Belfast Telegraph

Why sharing our intimate moments online is still very much a Grey area

By Lindy McDowell

Whatever happened to childhood? You know. That precious, innocent little chapter of life that used to run from cradle to Clearasil. Maybe it's not been eroded entirely - but you do get the impression that even Peter Pan would feel under some pressure these days to ditch the cute elfin outfit for something a bit more grown up. And grey.

World Book Day, traditionally an occasion for kids to dress up as their favourite literary characters and an opportunity for teachers to encourage discussion about the books they're reading and about books in general, brought us two headline stories this week featuring primary school boys dressed up as Christian Grey. As in Christian Grey tall, dark and billionaire BDSM dominant and sadist. The "hero" of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. That Christian Grey.

Children's literary choices would seem to have moved on quite a bit from the Gruffalo and Harry Potter.

One of the boys who showed up to school in his Grey outfit was only eight years old. His teachers laughed. Which, given that his outfit was fairly innocuous and did not include bondage accessories, was probably the right response.

The other lad, however, didn't get the same amused reaction. His outfit had included blindfold and cable ties. His teachers had, not unreasonably, suggested that he pocket them and pose instead as James Bond. The 11-year-old was unimpressed. As indeed was his mother - herself a teacher - who subsequently complained to the media about how unfairly she felt her boy had been treated.

Her son had reasoned Fifty Shades was the most talked about book of the last couple of years, she said. As for the teachers, they'd wanted him to be 007, "who ironically is a very promiscuous character who kills people, so I don't know which is worse."

Both mother and son make legitimate points.

Still. You can also see why the poor teachers might have more reservations about a class discussion on sadomasochism than a chat about car chases and global espionage.

What was the mother thinking? Given that she was immediately on Twitter to whinge about the teachers' attitude, it's very obvious she sees herself (and her child) as the victims of a serious sense of humour failure. No heart searching here about inappropriate outfit.

Whatever happened to a bit of parental common sense? Or is it now entirely about the instant gratification that internet venting provides?

Anything and everything gets posted on social media by some parents these days. Consideration about whether this is in the best interests of the child doesn't always seem to come into it.

Even celeb parents are not immune. Amanda Holden recently came in for flak when a picture of her little girl dressed, allegedly, as a prostitute from Pretty Woman (again for a school dress-up day) was posted online. Ms Holden subsequently claimed the child was dressed as model Cindy Crawford.

What fuels this compulsion so many parents seem to have to post images, often of even quite private moments, online?

I was saddened, as I'm sure everyone else was, by that picture this week of the little girl grieving for the pet cat which had been put down (quite rightly it would appear) by a caring vet who believed it to be a stray, had examined it and found it to be suffering from renal failure.

In the picture the little girl is just so distressed. You have to admire the composure of the mother who was able to record the scene at such a time.

Most of us, I imagine, would have been too consumed with trying to comfort the child.

The immediate accessibility of social media is undoubtedly tempting - no better place to voice and illustrate your anger - but maybe, occasionally, some degree of restraint might not come amiss. Although, obviously not of the cable tie variety, mini Mr Grey.

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that

Whatever else you say about this place, you have to concede we have had our fair share of Agreements.

Our latest crisis (they’re coming along more regularly than Metro buses these days) is apparently threatening the Stormont House Agreement.

Not to be confused with the St Andrews Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, or if you prefer the Belfast Agreement, or even the Anglo Irish Agreement.

Our politicians do seem to find the Agreement process very agreeable.

But there are elections in the offing. So some disagreement is now called for. That’s another thing they all agree on.

It’s not just snakes leaving the island

There’s an old emigrant’s song with a line that yearns, “If we only had old Ireland over here”. Actually now you do.

Every St Patrick’s Day we export our patron saint and the celebrations over to America (primarily) as swathes of the population leave to drown their shamrock there.

Before that, with Cheltenham in full swing, there’s hardly a horse left in Ireland. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to have Cheltenham over here?

The period around St Patrick’s Day in Ireland is increasingly marked by mass evacuation of man, woman and beast. Surely it’s not what the saint would have wanted?

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