Reproduction of striking painting by Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, at Courtesy of the Artist.





I have created this separate Article, PORNOGRAPHY, SEXUAL CONSENT and CYBER-BULLYING, to help parents, guardians, and carers (PGCs) access easily the information they need to discuss these current and very important topics with their children and young people.



Iseult C O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor





After each break in term, as children and young people return to class, they will be met by new influences, ideas, and practices ~ some of these are harmful to them. If you haven't started already, please start your conversations on accessing pornography online and on Smartphones. 82 per cent of boys of 11-12 years access pornography online.


This is a truly serious state of affairs, and for their long-term mental health and social interactions, it needs to be stopped.


As you will discover, 11-12 year-old boys are accessing pornography online.  This may come as a stunning fact to many who are unaware of what is available to children and young people online via Smartphones and laptops.




Also very dangerous, and greatly to the detriment and harm of mostly early teenage boys to young men, and then to the girls and young women they know, is how they may come to view and compare themselves, and other young people, as a consequence of now frequent visits by large numbers of 13-17 year old boys / young men to pornography sites. 


It is considered around 82 per cent of boys from the age of 11 to 12 upwards, are viewing pornography regularly, and use it to learn how to interact with girls.


They usually start watching at around 11-12 years-of-age.

 It's considered around 82 per cent of Irish boys have viewed pornography by this age.


Richie Sadlier started a column in the Health Section of The Irish Times The headline below could not have been more timely, and the articles is a must-read for all PGCs, teachers and anyone who works with young people, or who happens to be in their company regularly.

"Richie Sadlier: Talking with teenage boys about porn, drink and suicide.

"The psychotherapist and former pro soccer player kicks off a new monthly health column in The Irish Times."  

Go to, to find his Column; he is also available on Facebook and Twitter.  This is exactly what teenage boys, young men need and, of course, girls and young women also.

The low status of girls and women boys and young men learn, through watching pornography - dictating how to think what is appropriate to women and girls - their perceived lack of a girl's / woman's personal integrity -  and a presumption of their constant sexual availability - are likely to cause confusion at the very least, in the REAL world, and certainly likely to cause offence and, possibly, result in violent incidents  

Teenage boys and young men may have a very confused idea of consent.  They think they have to be told "No!" for consent to be denied.  Someone unconscious drunk or on drugs cannot say "No!", and that lack of simplicity can lead to very strange, unhappy, and dangerous misconceptions.


Please don't think your brother, son or nephew, would never do this kind of thing! 

All young people are curious.

 This is a very warped way to learn about personal relationships.






 Children viewing endless, sexually explicit, violent material should NOT be inevitable


As a parent / guardian / carer (PGC), it is hard not to imagine what will happen when you give your child a Smartphone for the first time.


This isn’t easy reading. These are things that are difficult to talk about, difficult to think about.


The boy was 14 years old when his mother walked into her sitting room to find him abusing his younger sister. She was eight. He was copying things he had seen on Pornhub, he would later tell Gardaí.

At the Central Criminal Court some time ago, the now 16-year-old pleaded guilty to five counts of oral rape and 44 counts of sexual assault of his half-sister. He was ordered by Mr Justice Michael White to live away from his mother’s home as part of a suspended sentence.

More recently, another case was before the same judge involving a child sexually exploiting other children. This time, the accused boy told Gardaí he “became obsessed with sex”. His lawyers said he had begun looking at porn online “at a very young age”.

This case, the judge said, was the fourth he had personally dealt with, in which “young children have committed the most serious offences”, starting with “exposure to pornography on Smartphones”.

“It is very serious and a matter of great concern,” he said. The kind of offending the court is seeing “goes way beyond consensual sexual experimentation”.



Fabian Thylmann is not a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg.  He’s not a household name. But he’s arguably having an even more profound impact on the lives of our children.  In 2007, this reclusive engineer brought the world what it hadn’t yet realised it 'desperately' wanted: free streaming pornography.


Social Costs

In 2017, the journalist Jon Ronson outlined some of the social costs of this then decade-old experiment in his brilliant podcast series, The Butterfly Effect. Erectile dysfunction in young men, he found, was up by 1,000 per cent since Thylmann introduced free streaming porn. 

In one episode, he interviews an autistic boy who tried to interact with a girl he liked by texting her things he’d heard men say in porn videos. It didn’t go well - the boy ended up on the sex offenders’ list.


Today, many counsellors and psychologists have similar stories of children who mistook porn for real life, with catastrophic results.


What are PGCs to do?

Some try to hold back the tide, and refuse to give into Smartphones for as long as possible.

The rest fall roughly into two groups, divided along either side of what researchers in the US call the “parental naivety gap”. 

On one side are the ones who give their child a Smartphone in their early teens, and try not to think too much about what they might do with it. ‘My child wouldn’t’, they say optimistically. ‘I know my son’. ‘My daughter’s not like that’. ‘He wouldn’t’. ‘She won’t’.

On the other are those who take a more pragmatic approach. They don’t like the idea of their children accessing porn, but they’re not sure there’s much they can do about it. So they hand the phone over, install the parental control filters that they know their children will work out how to avoid, and save the pin code.  Porn, they shrug in private conversations with their friends, is inevitable. It’s part of growing up.


Here’s the Story

Sexual curiosity is normal. Children being eager to find out what all the fuss is about is normal. But children viewing endless, sexually explicit, and often violent, material shouldn’t be inevitable.  And, in our efforts to be realistic and grown-up about it, we may be in danger of normalising something that is not normal.



Former Tánaiste (deputy prime minister in Ireland), Simon Coveney, said the ease of access to online pornography was “a worry for every parent in the Country”.

“The day of self-regulation of the internet is over,” he added, leading to suggestions that Ireland might move to block unrestricted access to porn, as the UK is attempting to do.


Some experts believe it’s too late to turn back the tide of free streaming porn; there is, they say, no technological solution capable of stopping what Fabian Thylmann started.


It is not too late to have uncomfortable conversations with our children about the messages they get from pornography - such as the message that all women are always available for sex at all times with any man. 


That women like men who are forceful or even violent. 


That “no” often means “yes”.


See the next Section for ideas for how to make these conversations less uncomfortable and more successful.


Now when we talk about sex, we need to talk about pornography, respect, consent, sexuality, body image and boundaries.  


We don’t want to terrify young people into believing watching porn will ruin their lives, destroy their relationships and maybe warp their libidos, but we do need to talk about it.


It sometimes seems lured by a promise of - Convenience / Security / Connectivity or a quiet life or not having to say “no” when every other parent in your circle is saying “yes”  or all of the above - we have walked into signing our children up to a social experiment.  We may only now realise what happens what the experiment goes wrong.



Some of the above is based on work by Jennifer O'Connell of The Irish Times.




 "How do I talk to my teenage sons about pornography?


"I don’t want to ignore the issue but I’ve no idea how I’m supposed to raise the topic."


Dear Roe,

"I’m the mother of two boys, ages 13 and 15.  I’m constantly reading and hearing about how young men are exposed to pornography at a young age, and how it causes issues regarding how they view sex and women.  I don’t want to ignore the issue but I have no idea how I’m supposed to raise the topic with my sons, or what indeed I should say. Do you have any advice on how to tackle this?"


Reply ~

"You’re right to want to address pornography with your sons.  Too many parents are aware of the potentially damaging messages that young people can receive from pornography, but refuse to open up a dialogue with their children about it. It’s vital to teach your children that sex and sexuality aren’t shameful and – like anything else – they are allowed ask questions about it, in order to learn.

 "Of course, sometimes you won’t have all the answers, but it’s then that you can turn to trusted educational resources – together. Being part of your children’s education process around sex means that not only are you aware of what they’re learning, you’re also showing them that in your home, education and information are empowering forces.

"By remaining silent and refusing to acknowledge the existence of pornography, you’d be teaching them not to talk about sex, not to ask questions, not to communicate about it. 

"You’d be teaching them that your embarrassment is more important than their education and empowerment.  You’d be teaching them that sex is uncomfortable, and that discomfort trumps everything else, including their wellbeing."




The above is quoted from The Irish Times of 17 Dec 2017.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University.  

She is currently undertaking a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford.







Sometimes a court case comes along and a whole nation may be held transfixed in horror at the terrifying experiences of the children involved, and the realisation amongst many parents, guardians, carers, and teachers, that they really do not know what's going on in the lives of their children, and that many do not understand the reach of a Smartphone or Tablet, and other such devices.


Dublin man’s computer had recorded Skype calls between 

him and two nine-year-old girls


A Dublin man who possessed thousands of child pornography images and coerced young girls to send him sexually graphic pictures and videos of themselves has been jailed for seven and a half years.

Matthew Horan (26)  used  Skype,  Snapchat,  Instagram,  and Kik (an anonymous instant  messaging  application), to send and receive child porn images from six identified child users in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world.

A forensic examination of Horan’s computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine-year-old-girls, both individually and together. The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts.

Horan also took part in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there was an exchange of photos.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.


Threat to Share Images

He threatened to share an 11-year-old girl’s nude images to her social media accounts if she didn’t send him further graphic photos.

In the text exchange between them, this girl repeatedly told Horan she would kill herself.  He continued to coerce her to send more images, the court heard.

Horan pleaded guilty to a count each of sexually exploiting two girls within the State on dates between April 1st and November 23rd, 2014.

He pleaded guilty to two further counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of distributing child pornography on dates in 2015.  He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn at his address on July 11th, 2015. 

He pleaded guilty to three further counts of sexually exploiting female children through  Snapchat and  Instagram in the State on dates between May 21st, 2015 and July 7th, 2016.

He also pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on a Sony mobile phone at his home on July 7th, 2016.  He has no previous convictions.

Judge Nolan ... said ... "the crimes were all committed for Horan’s indulgence and pleasure and Horan had exploited children in a most horrible way".   

 He said Horan’s actions would have long-term effects on the victims.

“He knew what he was doing was wrong. He understood the damage and yet he didn’t stop what he was doing,” he said.


The above is a precis of an article which appeared in The Irish Times.

See for full text.





The above are edited elements of the coverage of the trial which I hope would be of general use to children, young people, and the adults in their lives, as an introduction to the topic of staying safe online, on Tablets, Smartphones and other devices. 

I suggest that all PGCs, grandparents and any significant adults who play a large part in children's, youngsters' and young adults' lives, read ALL the various articles listed in this Article. Then, a broad discussion on what they understand the difficulties and problems would be for their children and young people would help clarify what needs to be done by everyone.

If a child or young teenager has heard of the case above, or any of the many like it, and wants to know more, reading through the articles together would be useful for both the adult and the child or young person. 

 I suggest the adult should read through first, checking the meanings of any technical terms, or any everyday terms that had never seemed so scary previously.   

The adult would feel more confident about being able to answer possible questions.  Once armed with information, I believe the PGCs, and other significant adults, should start a conversation at a quiet, relaxed time, about the court case, asking if the youngster has heard anything about it.  

 It may have been huge at the time, but the public's memory fades.   

While bearing in mind that this case focused on young girls, and that boys are equally at risk, I suggest putting these horrible experiences to a positive use, as the basis for study by families, classes, and students, to check that everyone knows what to look out for, and what to do if there is a fear that personal information has passed to another.

The situation of the young girls would bring both empathy and determination out in children, youngsters, and young people.  No-one would want to go through their experiences, and they are easy to imagine. 

I believe having prepared a child by saying what you are about to read with him or her is upsetting, but very important to know about - the adult should just jump in, and trust to his or her relationship with the child, and that any worried questions shall be answered.  

Take your time.  Take opportunities to ask if he or she understands what has happened so far.   It doesn't have to be done all in one evening - it's more important that all the information available and required is mined. 

Be ready to answer further questions over weeks and maybe months.   That would be a very positive sign. This is a very big subject, and realisation will hit the young in sudden moments, and after consideration.  Those are the times when question might be formulating to be asked.  


We need to stay alert, and ask if there are any questions or suggestions the child or young person wants to put. 

It's easy to become complacent, thinking one knows what's going on.  

This story brings out the fear and urge to protect in any adult.


Don't worry If something comes up that you, the adult, hasn't checked - you should just say straight out, that ~

"I don't understand that, but we'll find out the meaning. We're both learning a good deal of new and really important information because of the bravery of those girls - and pretending we know something when we don't, is not good for either of us.  Information is Power!"


It's a truly shocking case - sometimes

we need a jolt to get motivated.





 ‘So if you go out and both get drunk you can’t have sex?

'That’s f**ked up’

 Richie Sadlier and Elaine Byrnes discuss consent with transition year boys.


Richie: Does anyone in the class have any idea how they might explain consent to someone?

Joey: Just tell them that no means no.

Elaine: Okay, but remember the absence of a no doesn’t mean the presence of a yes. Silence isn’t consent.

Johnny: But if someone isn’t giving any indication they’re not consenting, how are we meant to know?

Shane: You’d see it on their face.

Johnny: Yeah but let’s say the room is dark?

Shane: You’d know by their body language. They’d be frozen stiff or something. Ah, you’d know.

Paulo: Yeah but they could just be really rigid and shy, or quiet. What’s the difference?

Shane: Ah there’s a difference.

Johnny: Yeah but how are we meant to be sure?


Elaine: Anyone?

Harry: You could ask them straight out if they’re up for it.

Elaine: Yes! And don’t be afraid to be really specific. Communication is everything when it comes to consent.

Gareth: Okay, what are you meant to say? “Am I raping you or not?”

[Room laughs]

Richie: Well that might kill the mood a little. Maybe think of other ways to phrase it, but checking to make sure they’re comfortable and enjoying themselves is not a bad thing.

Johnny: Yeah but I heard that if the girl is drunk and even if she says that she’s enjoying it at the time, it’s still rape. Is that true?

Richie: Well the legal definition of rape is penetrating someone without consent. A person incapacitated through drink or drugs would be considered too wasted to give consent. So yes, if she’s drunk, you’re vulnerable in the eyes of the law.

Johnny: That’s f**ked up! So if you go out and you both get drunk you can’t have sex? Isn’t that, like, 90 per cent of how people have sex in Ireland? Get drunk first and then shag?

Neil: Yeah, sure everyone drinks.

Richie: I don’t drink.

Gareth: Yeah, but we’re not trying to have sex with you.

[Room laughs]

Richie: Nobody is saying you can’t have sex. The law says if your partner is heavily intoxicated, though, they can’t give consent. That’s the definition that matters in the courts. And this isn’t just about penetrative sex. We’re talking about all sexual behaviours.

Johnny: Yeah but what’s the difference between normal levels of drunkenness and being too drunk? How can you tell?


Elaine: Anyone?  Where exactly is the line?

Joey: Well if she can’t remember anything that happened, she’s obviously too drunk.

Paulo: Yeah but you won’t know that til the next morning. How are you supposed to know there and then.


Richie: Anyone?  Where exactly is the line between normal drunk and way too drunk?

Joey: If she’s slurring her words, she’s obviously too drunk.

Thomas: Everyone slurs their words when they’re drunk. You’d never have sex if that’s where the bar is.

Joey: I’d say if she’s falling around, or her balance is all over the shop, then she’s too drunk.

Thomas: That happens to everyone, too.

Luke: Yeah but what if you’re the same amount of drunk – how are you meant to notice?

Richie: Not sure I follow. Say a bit more ..

Luke: Well you’re saying all men should know when a woman is too drunk to have sex ..

Richie: Actually, we never said that. We just stated what the law says. We didn’t specify gender either.

Luke: Okay, fair enough, but you’re basically saying men should be the ones to stop everything if the girl is drunk, even if the girl is saying at the time that she wants it.

Elaine: That’s not what we said either.

Luke: Okay but what I’m saying is – if both people are the same amount of drunk – how are blokes expected to be all responsible and stop what they’re both doing? They’re out of their heads too, remember. It’s f**ked up that in those situations the bloke is the one who can be accused of rape. That’s what I’m saying.

Elaine: Anyone got anything to say to that?

Johnny: Luke’s right. The law is bulls**t. Why are men the ones who have to take responsibility for the woman’s drunkenness?

Bobby: That’s not what the law says. Listen to what they’re saying. It just says there’s a point where someone can be too out of it to give consent, so even if they say yes, you should still walk away.

Richie: It doesn’t say walk away. It’s making you aware that being intoxicated can influence a person’s body language and facial expressions, even their words. It’s up to you to know how to behave if you’re ever in that situation. And remember, the law only becomes a consideration if there’s an allegation. I don’t want you to get the impression that any woman that has sex while drunk – even if she can’t remember every detail – will automatically go to the gardaí. I’m just saying you should always take responsibility for your own actions in this area.

Gareth: Yeah but you’re kind of saying we should take responsibility for the girls drinking too, like we have to be the ones to make decisions on their behalf. I’m a feminist, you know. What about equality? [Room laughs]

Richie: I don’t think that’s what I’m saying.

Conor: It basically is, though. Let’s say we’re the same level of drunk, you’re saying the girl’s words – her saying yes – don’t count if she was hammered, but the bloke’s actions – penetrating her – does. Is that not bulls**t?

Richie: Don’t you think drunken people should be offered some protection by the law? There are loads of cases where really drunk people have been taken advantage of by people who knew that what they were doing was wrong at the time.

Conor: Yeah but they’re scumbags. We’re not. We’re just trying to get laid [room laughs]. You’re making out, okay, sorry – the law is making out – that there’s a higher standard of behaviour on us lads. That’s bulls**t.

Elaine: I suppose what we’re saying is how important respect is when it comes to consent. Respect for yourself and respect for others. So, just to keep that in mind – you being drunk or the other person being drunk doesn’t change that.

Leo: If a girl is hammered, though, shouldn’t the conversation be about why she’s hammered? You’re telling us to be responsible when it comes to alcohol and drugs, why shouldn’t women be held responsible too?

Richie: Lads, men can be raped too. This isn’t a man / woman thing. The law is there to protect everyone.

Conor: Okay, but I read about this bloke that was accused of rape and he didn’t do it and the girl just got away with making it up and now his life is ruined.

Richie: I don’t know the details of that one, obviously, but everyone in the world is vulnerable to a false allegation. Men and women, remember. Any time you’re ever in a room alone with someone they can accuse you of anything, so everyone is vulnerable to that. It’s worth being pretty selective who you go into a room alone with if that’s your concern.

Leo: Yeah but why does everyone automatically believe the girl? You look on social media and everyone assumes the girl is right and the bloke’s reputation is ruined. Since #MeToo nobody believes blokes anymore.

Richie: That’s not a reflection of how the courts generally see it. Have you seen the conviction rates compared to the number of reported rapes? Anyone know roughly how many rapes go unreported?

Johnny: But a man’s life is ruined if he’s accused.

Richie: How would you compare that to the experience of being raped and not believed? Or being raped and not even reporting it cos you think you won’t be believed?


Richie: Let me ask you this way – if you came to me this morning and said you had been raped last night, would you want me to believe you? [Room laughs] No, seriously, let’s move away from the notion that women are the only victims of rape here.

 Leo: Well obviously, yeah.

 Richie: Okay, and let’s say it happened while you were at a party with a load of older blokes and you were drunk. Would you want people to say it was your fault cos you were drunk? Or that you should have known better than go to a house with older lads or some s**t like that?

 Leo: Obviously not, no.

 Richie: So why did you say we should discuss the woman’s drinking if she was drunk?


 Richie: Sorry lads, we’re out of time here. Anyone got anything to say before we finish up?


 Elaine: So would it have been enough for us to just say to you all that no means no?

 [Lots of heads shake]

 Elaine: And if we asked any of you to explain consent to someone now, what would you say?

 Gareth: I’d tell them to never drink and stay a virgin cos it’s not worth the f**king hassle. 

[Room laughs]

 Richie and Elaine: See you next week, lads.


Richie Sadlier and Elaine Byrnes deliver a six-week module in sexual health to transition year students in St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin. The names of the boys, listed above, have been changed.


I realise this conversation was on the topic of 'sexual consent', but I found it sad and depressing that these young men, and the young women in their lives, feel a need to be well oiled with alcohol prior to having sex. 

Is there still such a strong unspoken guilt connected with having sex, or do they need to be drunk to have the courage. Surely sex when sober and able to appreciate every detail as it happen, and also able to remember it all the next day, should be a goal for everyone.  

The age of consent to engaging in a sexual act in the Republic of Ireland is 17 years.  ICOB.







Please See LUKE Culhane's video on YouTube entitled

'Cyber Bullying: Create No Hate' 

which went viral. Luke's video recounts his own experience of being bullied on-line. 


Every PGC and teacher needs to make themselves knowledgeable about this pernicious type of bullying.  


PGCs have to take on the responsibility of learning about cyber-bullying, and then make sure their offspring / young people also know about it, and know they should tell as soon as anything nasty happens on-line. 




HAVE PGCs made themselves aware of the ubiquitous nature of cyber-bullying, and how extremely damaging it is to any child, young person, or adult? 

Go to for advice for PGCs, teachers, and anyone who should make him or herself knowledgeable on cyber-bullying. 


PGCs cannot leave this job to teachers and the school. 


Our children's and young people's welfare have to be our priority - please take this issue seriously. Young people can become isolated, may self-harm and, in some cases, take their lives. 


Some truly cannot live with the constant bullying.


See LUKE Culhane's video on YouTube entitled

'Cyber Bullying: Create No Hate' 



Luke was named the 2016 "Child of the Year" / 'l'enfant de l'année 2016', by French newspaper 'Mon Quotidien' for standing up to cyber-bulling.

Cyber-bullying can happen to anyone on a seemingly random basis.  Frequently, young people keep it to themselves ~ they do not tell PGCs and, often, not even their best friends.  The results of this COWARDLY bullying can be appalling for everyone in the family, not just the selected victim. 

PGCs REALLY NEED to find out about this pernicious activity; when they have informed themselves, they will have a better idea what to look out for in their young people and children.

A conversation on the whole topic with everyone present, would make the subject easier for everyone to ask about and talk about.  Show Luke's YouTube video, even young children will be able to understand its message, and it would be a good starting point for your conversation.





Regards, Iseult

Iseult C O’Brien


If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.  If you don't tell me where I'm confusing or confused ~ I cannot fix it!


Please let me know what you think of my ideas ~ if you don't tell me, I won't know if I've gone wrong somewhere!


All my Articles originate on my website,"Education Matters".  They are developed, updated, and continually revised.




If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly. If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite! If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text. 


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