There are three huge issues for parents today that wouldn’t have even been on the radar back in my day – screen time, lack of exercise and the high levels of sugar and fat in food.
Getting kids away from their PlayStations, iPads and phones and engaging with the outside world is now a rarity. When I was young, being outside for hours on end was the norm.
I remember vividly my first camping trip away as a teenager, with others from Rialto, to the Isle of Skye. It was incredibly exciting.
I was around 13 or 14, and it was a real adventure with a capital A.
I was nervous about going away with adult strangers and boisterous teens, but I knew to keep my wits about me.
Every detail is still sharp – of pitching the tent, cooking my first meal on the stove (it was a disaster – rock hard potatoes and uncooked mince), hiking and falling asleep with only a thin layer of tent between me and the sky.
There was a vulnerability about being away from home. Some of the young men on the trip were bold, as you would say.
They constantly tried to impress us with their bravado talk and outrageous antics. Sleeping in a tent with strangers, and with strange adults close by, left you exposed.
This is one of the issues causing huge concern for Tusla in relation to Scouting Ireland.
Like so many youth-focused groups, Scouting Ireland is at the centre of a sexual abuse scandal. Most of these alleged incidents happened between the 1960s and the 1990s.
According to a review by Scouting Ireland, there have been 313 alleged victims of sexual abuse and 237 alleged perpetrators. Along with that, there are also 66 alleged victims of youth-on-youth sexual abuse.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Scouting Ireland are at odds over what actions have been taken, with a letter from Tusla outlining eight recommendations.
All seem valid. However, Scouting Ireland insists its ongoing review led by expert Ian Elliott and further actions have addressed all the issues.
One recommendation sugg-ests Scouting Ireland “should consider the viability of continuing with overnight trips”.
The accounts of the abuse are similar to what we’ve heard before – all incredibly worrying for any parent who wants to send their child away on a camping trip.
However, if the safeguards are put in place, and if Scouting Ireland is doing everything it can to ensure that every child is safe, there’s no need to discontinue the overnight trips.
Balancing safety and adventure is precarious at the best of times.
Safety is key, but adventure is invaluable.
I grew up a little bit when I went on that trip to Skye. I experienced nature on a whole new level. I cooked and hiked and found new friends.
Surely we must push for both safety and adventure in our children’s lives. Cancelling overnight trips with the Scouts would be a shame.