That is according to researchers at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.
786 teenagers across Northern Ireland completed the 2010 Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, an annual survey of 16 year-olds undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster. The annual survey is aimed at giving an insight into lives of teenagers across Northern Ireland addressing a number of different areas. It is the first time in Northern Ireland that the area of sexual grooming and exploitation amongst teenagers has been included in the study.
The key findings of the 2010 study include:
Sexual Grooming and Exploitation
- One in nine respondents said that an adult had tried to groom them – three-quarters of respondents were under 16 years of age when this happened. In almost half of these cases the perpetrator was at least seven years older than the respondent.
- One in 15 respondents said they had been given drugs or alcohol and were then taken advantage of sexually. Again, two-thirds of respondents were under the age of 16 when this happened to them.
- One in 20 respondents had been offered something in return for taking part in a sexual activity. 62 per cent of these respondents had not told anyone of authority that this had happened.
- Over half were initially contacted on the street, through a friend or sibling or in a pub/club. 17 per cent were initially contacted online.
- Nine per cent of 16 year-olds had caring responsibility for someone. The greatest proportion these respondents spent between five and nine hours a week caring for someone. 40 per cent of young carers spent every day of the week looking after this person.
- 26 per cent of respondents thought that the leisure time facilities in their area were good or very good.
- Lack of free time and the cost of using facilities were the two most frequently named reasons by respondents that inhibit young people from taking part in leisure activities.
- One of the main findings was also the discrepancy between the desire of 16 year-olds to use public spaces during their leisure time and the negative attitudes and experiences they face when doing so.
- 56 per cent of respondents had been told to ‘move on’ when standing on the street with their friends – predominantly by residents.
- 82 per cent had been treated with suspicion by shop owners.
- 85 per cent of respondents felt that young people were judged negatively just because they are young, and 79 per cent felt that the media portrays young people mostly negatively.
- 55 per cent of respondents felt that community relations in Northern Ireland were better now than five years ago, whilst only 39 per cent felt relations between Catholics and Protestants would be better in five years time. However, eight in ten respondents believe that religion will always make a difference to how people in Northern Ireland feel about each other.
Politics and current affairs
- One-quarter of respondents felt that things have improved for young people with the Stormont government, whilst 15 per cent felt that things got worse. However, only 11 per cent of respondents were generally satisfied with how the Northern Ireland government is doing its job, compared to three per cent who were unsatisfied.
- Only five per cent of respondents said that the current credit crunch had not affected them at all compared to 15 per cent in the 2009 YLT survey.
Young Life and Times Director, Dr Dirk Schubotz from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University said: “The 2010 YLT survey offers again interesting insights into the lives of 16 year-olds in Northern Ireland. For the first time here, the YLT survey addressed issues of sexual grooming and exploitation. The fact that a sizable proportion of respondents had been affected by grooming or attempts to take advantage of them sexually, mostly before they had reached the age of consent, reminds us about the vulnerability of young people.
“On a general level, the survey reflects how the effects of the economic crisis are now felt by the great majority of young people. With regard to the Northern Ireland dimension, the data suggest the majority of young people recognise positive changes in Northern Ireland society; however, only about one in ten respondents are satisfied with the Northern Ireland government.
“There can be no doubt that the majority of 16 year-olds play a positive role in society. However, the YLT survey evidence speaks volumes about the frustration of 16-year olds with how young people are portrayed in the media and how they are treated as young people when spending time in public places, places that should be as open and welcoming for them to use as for everyone else.
For more information and results tables on the 2010 YLT survey are available from the YLT website: www.ark.ac.uk/ylt
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