Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Ireland parents have a lot on their plate today

So are the concerns of parents in Northern Ireland as evidenced in a major survey reported in this newspaper today any greater than those of their own parents? (Ben Birchall/ PA)
So are the concerns of parents in Northern Ireland as evidenced in a major survey reported in this newspaper today any greater than those of their own parents? (Ben Birchall/ PA)

Editor's Viewpoint

Every generation of parents has worried about how the world was changing and the impact that would have on the welfare, well-being and development of their children. Remember the horror of parents in the Sixties at the explosion of pop music, a drugs culture and the development of the contraception pill.

So are the concerns of parents in Northern Ireland as evidenced in a major survey reported in this newspaper today any greater than those of their own parents? The answer is, probably, yes, for today the world seems a more uncertain place than it ever was before.

Social media is all pervasive and there is strong evidence that vulnerable young people are at risk of mental ill-health or worse through harmful images, hateful messages and, particularly for young girls, pressures on how to look and behave.

We have all read the tragic consequences of those who have become ensnared in a virtual world they are unable to cope with.

But Northern Ireland has its own specific problems which rightly cause worry to parents. There is the cost of childcare, the pressure for both parents to work to keep their heads above water in the region of the UK where wages are lowest, and there is great uncertainty about the future.

It is not just Brexit which is a concern, even if any deal, never mind no-deal, is likely to have the greatest negative effect in the province. There is also the political uncertainty after more than two years without a devolved administration which is affecting the daily lives of people here.

Parents worry about health provision and education budgets, and wonder how we got to the stage where they were having to donate toilet roll to some primary schools.

And what is being done to tackle the problem of underachievement among boys in school?

While the younger generation, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed, are more likely to cross sectarian lines when choosing their friends, it remains a fact that they are educated apart, and many of their parents live in silo isolation from 'the other side'.

Little wonder that the brain drain still holds appeal for young people as the best prospect for a bright future.

Even if the political parties go back to Stormont, it is likely to be the same sectarian arithmetic in the debating chamber. Do we really want to see the politics of division repeated? That is a concern for everyone.

Belfast Telegraph

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