Cork teen tries to bridge the generation gap

A West Cork teenager is on a mission to help bridge the gap between children and their parents. Here Alicia Joy O’Sullivan, tells us more about her Generation Z project and a recent talk she hosted in Skibbereen
Cork teen tries to bridge the generation gap
Alicia Joy O’ Sullivan.

DO you ever have no idea what your child is talking about? Or do you worry what they aren’t talking about? This is every parent’s biggest concern. This was my main ideology when coming up with my project known currently as ‘Generation Z’.

Back in January I was awarded Lions Club Youth Ambassador of Ireland and with that I got to create a project in which I had a €600 bursary to make it come alive.

My idea was to directly help parents understand the realities of the world their children are living in, identify the biggest concerns of Generation Zs and tackle them head on.

After much surveying, Facebook advertising and poster sticking, word had reached around Skibbereen that there would be an event in Skibbereen Community School on Thursday April 11 at 7pm. Some of the topics to be addressed on the night were Cyber/Social Media, LGBTI+ and Mental Health.

On entering Skibbereen Community School on Thursday night the parents received an info pack on Internet Safety and Security sponsored by TrendMicro, a global leader in security and solutions. After a quick opening address from myself, in front of a room of 70 and more than 200 on Facebook live, I spoke about how the idea came about after I presented in front of the Department of Education in the National Museum of Ireland last year about the Relationships and Sexual Education, accompanied by my dad, I soon started to realise how little he knows about serious concerns in my world and the issues that have major input into young people lives in 2019.

Alicia Joy O’ Sullivan, centre, with speakers and Minister Jim Daly at the Generation Z event in Skibbereen, West Cork.
Alicia Joy O’ Sullivan, centre, with speakers and Minister Jim Daly at the Generation Z event in Skibbereen, West Cork.

After this opening, I introduced the first speaker, Mr Harry McCann. A 20 year old young man from Dublin who is well known in the world of Tech and social media. He spoke passionately about the new age of The Internet and stated how it’s probably very likely that GenZs will die with their phone in their hand taking a Snapchat and will still make sure they have the right filter on it.

The second speaker invited upon the stage was Kirstyn Donoghue. Kirstyn is a mom of three incredible boys and came all the way from Dublin to speak in Skibbereen on Thursday night. She told all 70 parents in the room about her story of her child who she had raised as a girl, coming out to her as transgender. She spoke about how she did all the ‘wrong things’ and said all the stuff you ‘shouldn’t say’ but after that period came listening, education, understanding and acceptance. She really was the star of the night and in a small town in rural West Cork she certainly had everyone’s respected attention.

Thirdly, James O Mahony, chair of the KYSS Project in Kinsale (Kinsale Youth Support Services) took to the stage and spoke about Youth Mental Health and how real it is. He spoke about the taboo in Ireland and how our reaction and attitudes towards a broken leg are so disparate compared to someone who says they have depression and how Generation Z have a completely different outlook towards mental health and how important it is for us as parents to lose the stigma so we can openly talk to them.

I then made a few final personal thoughts, about how important it is for parents not to be afraid of this new age and that it’s time we stop closing the door on parents and let them into the discussions to allow them to have open and honest conversations with their children.

Running down from a late Dail session, Minister for Mental Health Jim Daly made a few closing remarks about the idea of how the two generations view mental health differently and it’s time we start catching up and opening up to their children about the topic, so we can start to catch problems at an earlier stage.

After the speaking finished, each speaker did an interview with Youth Reporters from YMCA Ireland and were available to speak to parents about any concerns or questions they had.

My next plan is seeking sustainability for my project. I am currently planning meetings with many different organisations to do so. I am also in the process of building my own website for parents, which will host all the relevant for parents and help they may need.

For more info, the livestream of the event or queries on Generation Z go to generationz1 on Facebook.

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