Bolton School Senior Boys

The RAP Project Talks Social Skills for Life

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Deana Puccio was an assistant district attorney in New York, working in the sex crimes unit, before moving to the UK and co-founding the Rap Project. Her obvious expertise and enthusiastic and engaging delivery enthralled a large audience of 70 parents, who had gathered to learn more about the challenges our teenagers face in the areas of pornography, social media, consent, sexual harassment and assault. 

The RAP Project’s survey of young people found that teenagers’ biggest cause of stress was school and exams. But social media pressures also feature strongly; posting the perfect life, liking everyone’s photos, and being unable to switch off. 

Alarmingly, the average age at which children now first view online pornography is 11. What they view is not normal, loving relationships but violent hardcore porn. This can become addictive and leave them unable to conduct normal relationships as they reach adulthood. Other influences, such as fashion industry advertising and programmes such as Love Island, contribute to the early sexualisation of our children. They are encouraged to aspire to the perfect body image; there has been a 75% increase in men getting help for eating disorders, and yet there are still more applicants to Love Island than Oxford and Cambridge universities combined. 

The need for mutual respect and consent in relationships was discussed. “No” means “no”, not “convince me”. Being accused of sexual assault, including false allegations, is life-changing for both the accused and the accuser. It is also important for teenagers to understand how easy it is for things to go wrong online. The example used was sexting, and how as soon as you send something out, you lose control; regaining a damaged reputation is very difficult. There have been over 200 prosecutions for revenge porn since June 2015, but far better to be careful with your online life and not end up at that point. Some medical schools search applicants’ social media profiles and will not admit students if they find unsavoury content. 

Teenagers need strategies for handling the party scene and need to be aware that if they consume alcohol and/or drugs, they make themselves vulnerable. They should be encouraged to look out for each other, leaving parties together etc. Festivals pose additional challenges, but there is plenty advice available on their websites and elsewhere about how to stay safe. 

Heather Tunstall, Senior Teacher and Head of Pastoral Curriculum, emphasised during questions that boys at Bolton School attend a range of talks on these sorts of areas, often from external experts, and they respond well to these.

More information about The Rap Project can be found at http://therapproject.co.uk/ and their book comes highly recommended: “Sex, Likes and Social Media: Talking to our teens in the digital age” by Allison Havey and Deana Puccio.”

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