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This week, the official hand over process occurred from the current Year 12 Battalion Leaders to the newly elected Year 11 students. Can I once again thank the Battalion Leaders of 2017 for all their hard work over the course of this year. On many occasions I have witnessed conversations about the manner in which the men of St Patrick’s have supported their team on a Saturday. In nearly all cases these comments have been extremely positive. The number of students in attendance, the quality of the cheering and the level of participation can all be attributed to these men.

Many people in our community only see the finished product each Saturday, but behind the scenes a great deal of preparation has been carried out by the mighty Battalion Leaders. These men would hold numerous meetings each week to develop posters, discuss spirit rallies and to plan how best to run the support on a Saturday.

It is now with great excitement that I congratulate the Battalion Leaders for 2018:

  • Okaw Obonno
  • Oliver Savage
  • James Hall
  • Connor Scurr
  • Edward Boland
  • Cody Payne
  • De Wet Coetzee
  • Aiden Sullivan

In many ways it is a baptism of fire with these men leading the Year 9 men into the AIC Track and Field day this week. I have already witnessed the energy the 2018 Battalion Leaders possess and have complete confidence in the manner in which these men will take over this role.

On a very different note, I would now like to ask all parents within our community to take a few minutes to read over the article below written by Catherine Gerhardt. The conclusion of this article provides six very useful tips for parents when discussing the serious issue of sexting with the young men of St Patrick’s College.

Just say no to ‘sexting’

We have all done something that we later regretted. I am sure we can all think of a time when we have done something that, in hindsight, we realised was not a great idea. What has changed is the speed with which these things can spread, and the size of the audience that can see it. The digital world brings with it a new set of challenges.

Parents are panicking about teens’ sexting and it can be a hard topic to navigate. It is important to get a good understanding of how and why sexting can be problematic. The more knowledge we have, the better decisions we are going to be able to make for ourselves and to educate our children. Start those difficult conversations today; it may be difficult, but it is far easier than dealing with the worst case scenario after it happens.

What is sexting? “Sexting” is the term used to describe the sharing of intimate images or video with another person. Very often it occurs between couples, people who are dating, but it can also happen between friends or groups. Australian teens, boys and girls, are sending and receiving sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude pictures and videos. According to a recent ACMA report 13% of 16-17-year-old’s said they or a friend sent photos or videos to someone else, while 18% of 16-17-year-old’s said they or a friend had received photos or videos of someone else. So we can say, based on real data, that no matter how it might feel, it’s just not the case that everyone is doing it; however, those statistics feel very high if your child happens to be in the catchment area of those statistics.

Why do young people sext? There are a number of reasons why young people may find themselves involved in this behaviour. More and more, sexting is used as a sign of collateral for trust within a relationship. Consider it like the new modern version of truth or dare, and as a way to get to know each other better. We do know that as teens progress through high school they can feel more and more pressure to engage in this behaviour. For girls, it is often the pressure around not being seen as a ‘prude’, or even the expectation to look or act like their friends do. For guys, it’s often pressure from peers around humour and just having a joke, to feeling the pressure to have girls send photos to prove to friends that girls are throwing themselves at them.

Just say “NO!” This seems like a no-brainer. If someone pressures you for a sext ‘just say no!’ After all, when you say no and you stick to your no, then you will always have control. When someone is trying to talk you out of your no, then they are trying to control you and the situation. Even if you make an exception once, for that one person, who you think you truly trust – once you press send that picture is out of your control forever. People who have trouble saying no, often find themselves saying yes. The media tends to normalise sexting behaviour and minimise the consequences, but the reality is that the aftermath is far from normal or desirable.

Places to go for help Using humour and a lighthearted response can work. Many apps have been created to do such a thing. Check out apps such as Send this Instead and Zipit. Apps like these are free and give kids an alternative strategy to deal with it if asked to send an inappropriate image.

Organisations like Kids Help Line and Headspace are also available to support youth in this area. The first step of asking for help is a difficult one; real friends and professionals trying to help can only do so when they know all the facts.

We all need to remember that making mistakes is a normal part of growing up, and the teen years is when a lot of these happen. These incidents become learning experiences for future years. Anything that happens on the world wide web means the potential for a huge audience. When we are online, WWW, the Whole World is Watching.

Top Tips for Parents

  1. Remind your child that everyone needs to say no sometimes, even to the people they care about.
  2. Educate your child to understand that when someone accepts their refusal without question, they show them respect.
  3. Take advantage of teachable moments; it may be difficult to start that conversation today but it is far easier than dealing with the worst case scenario after it happens.
  4. Remind your child that anything shared online means WWW – the Whole World is Watching.
  5. Set high expectations around your child’s digital presence; managing their image is paramount. A private self is a valued asset.
  6. Help them to “Know their no”.

Fight the good fight

Darren Kearney – Dean of Students