Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 21 April 2016


In two weeks time I am going back to my old Devon school (1966 -74) to address the 200 ex-pupils who will gather to hear my reminiscences.

I almost never think about my school days, but in preparing for this unusual exercise I have taken a trip down memory lane.

I write these words in the same week as a major Parliamentary enquiry is launched into the growing problem of sexual harassment in our schools. I am trying to work out whether things have got worse, or whether we are now simply less tolerant (rightly) of these practices.

I conclude that kids are the same now as ever: potentially kind and potentially cruel, naturally fascinated by the awakening going on inside them and increasingly interested in the opposite sex.

But two things are very different. Since I sat my O-Levels in 1972 our society has become overly sexualised. Films, TV and music now promote flagrantly things which were once more discreet. I can remember my mother hiding our copy of the Daily Mirror one day because there was a picture of a naked statue in it!

Secondly, the internet has arrived giving young people almost unlimited access to all forms of expression and information, whether healthy or not. It is also a tool to communicate both kindness and cruelty into the lives of fellow pupils long after the school bell has rung.

In the sixties we said daft things in love-letters. Now it is all online.

At least in the old days at 4pm the school bus would come and each child would go home to whatever shelter that home provided. Now, the internet follows you wherever you go. You may say that they do not have to look at it – but that is to miss the point. Today's youngsters live online. That is where they get most of their information and entertainment, it is where and they make and break friendships. Cyber-bullying is now a major issue, as is the bizarre practice, known as sexting, of taking a picture of parts of your body and texting it to your boy or girl-friend.

We should not be so surprised. We have over-sexualised our society, no wonder then that this is reflected in teenage behaviour.

We must get better at policing this online activity to help protect children as their maturity catches up with their desires, and a move towards greater societal modesty would be no bad thing.

posted by Gary @ 09:40