DIT report lets young people have their say on issues that concern them

Kildare, Wednesday 23rd March, 2006: Minister Sean Power, TD was in Naas, Co. Kildare today to launch a groundbreaking report based directly on the opinions, views, and needs of young people in the region.  Commissioned by Kildare Youth Services (KYS), the report entitled "Our Views- Anybody Listening?" focuses on the needs and attitudes of young people in Co. Kildare. The research, which directly listened to young people right across Co. Kildare, was conducted by Dr. Kevin Lalor and Dr. Katie Baird of the Department of Social Sciences, DIT, and was funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The findings indicate, contrary to general stereotypes, that young people place a high regard for the support they receive from their parents and friends. They also have a strong interest in being involved in community life and would welcome more youth facilities in their area that could be managed with some support from adults.

The most frequently cited concern of those sampled was `being bored/having nothing to do.-  Not surprisingly, the most frequently cited priority for 'government action' was for 'somewhere to go/something to do/a place to hang out.'

Respondents also reported that they feel relatively well informed about fitness and leisure, and healthy eating.  Alarmingly however, a quarter of those sampled spend no time participating in active sport. This is more pronounced amongst girls, where 34% spend no time engaged in active sport, compared to 21% of boys.  The report recommends that this general 'retreat' (particularly by girls) from physical education as the adolescent years progress should be recognised and counteracted.  The report advises that alternatives to outdoor team-sports, for example, dance, yoga, gymnastics, athletics, and swimming, have the potential to include young people currently not participating in school sport programmes.

The report also examines issues such as bullying, employment, alcohol/drug use and physical and health education. While some bullying in school is experienced by one-third of the sample, 4.8% report 'quite a lot' or 'a lot' of bullying. It also emerged that a small number of young people are being exploited by employers, thus jeopardising their educational, social and physical development.

One in five respondents said that they do not have adequate information about alcohol and drug use. The report puts forward a number of recommendations including that schools and youth services should promote sensible and healthy attitudes to alcohol use. More information must also be provided concerning gay/lesbian/bisexual issues, mental health issues, suicide awareness, divorce/ separation, and young people's rights.

Kildare Youth Services (KYS) has welcomed the opportunity to be guided by the young people who participated in the research. Liz O'Sullivan, Regional Director of KYS, said that the organisation continues "to benefit from the active participation of young people in the services that are offered to them. What is clear is that adults in Kildare need to put young people first. Young people are a huge potential resource when they are listened to, recognised and nurtured by all adults" says Liz.

This research will be used by local agencies to inform their service provision for and with young people. It also has a national significance, given that Co. Kildare has diverse needs due to the expansion of its rural and urban populations and the county's rapid growth in diversity.

Key findings of research

  • The majority of respondents (82%) live with both their parents; 13% have parents who are either divorced or separated.  The population was primarily Irish; non-Irish respondents were primarily from the UK or US with a small proportion coming from Africa (0.8%) or Eastern Europe (0.8%).
  • About a quarter watch over 10 hours a week of TV/DVDs/Videos; the remainder spend much less time than this watching TV.  Entertainment technologies (such as the Internet and Play Stations) are also popular, but there is a sizable minority (31%) who spend no time each week on these activities.  A small number (4%) report spending very large amounts of time per week (15+ hours) on entertainment technologies.
  • A quarter of those sampled spend no time each week in active sport.  This is more pronounced amongst girls, where 34% spend no time engaged in active sport, compared to 21% of boys.  Almost 40% of the sample reports some weekly involvement with music, drama or singing and 25% report spending time each week in voluntary work outside the home.  Just over half the respondents report no involvement in paid work.  A minority (10%) work more than 10 hours per week in paid employment.Half of those sampled never take alcohol. 
  • However, 17% report drinking alcohol 'often' or 'so often I worry' (this increases to 39% of male 6th Year students).  Bearing in mind this is a self-report study, very low numbers of participants reported using other drugs, including steroids, mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine and prescription tablets
  • While some bullying in school is experienced by one-third of the sample, only 4.8% report 'quite a lot' or 'a lot' of bullying
  • Respondents report that they feel relatively well informed about fitness and leisure, healthy eating and alcohol/illegal drugs.  However, approximately a third of respondents feel they do not have enough information about suicide awareness, gay/lesbian/bisexual issues, mental health issues and divorce/separation.
  • Overall, seven out of ten respondents describe themselves as 'very happy' or 'happy most of the time.'  Just over 6% are 'sad a lot of the time' or 'very unhappy'.
  • The situation with regard to Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is mixed.  Almost 80% have received classes of RSE, but only a third found them 'very helpful'.  Twenty-nine percent of the sample reported that their parents had never discussed sex with them.  Fifty-five percent reported their parents had `mentioned it once or twice, and 16% indicated that their parents had mentioned it many times
  • 'Failing exams' and 'being bored/having nothing to do' are the most common concerns experienced by this group of young people - 20% and 30% of respondents worry 'often' about these two issues, respectively.  Unhappiness with physical appearance is also a widespread concern, as are boyfriend/girlfriend problems, and not feeling a part of a group. Young people also report worrying about their parents or guardians.  Almost a third (32%) worry 'sometimes' or 'often' about their parents/guardians not getting on; 13% worry about a parent/guardian's drink problem and 11% worry about a parent/guardian's mental health.
  • When asked to identify priorities for government action, the most consistent response was having 'somewhere to go/something to do/a place to hang out', followed by sports facilities, cinemas, nightclubs, swimming pools and other recreational facilities.

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