Playground 'shag bands' spark fears over early sexualisation


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TO parents they are simply innocent, brightly coloured friendship bands their daughters and sons like to wear.


YOU'VE PULLED: The different coloured bands indicate
different types of sexual activity the wearer is supposed
to consent to.

But in the slang of the school playground they are known as 'shag bands' with all the disturbing connotations such a crude term implies.

Each colour band indicates a physical act, ranging from a yellow band for a hug to blue or black ones which represent a willingness to indulge in more serious sexual behaviour. If a schoolchild snaps the rubber band, the wearer is supposed to carry out the physical act represented by that colour.

Aine Lynch, of the National Parents Council (NPC), says that the 'shag band' phenomenon popular with pre-teen children is symptomatic of the early sexualisation of Irish children.

In Dundalk, Co Louth, the craze has swept through local schools. John Moloney, principal of Redeemer Boys National School, said teachers first became aware that youngsters were wearing the bands a few months ago.

"The main danger I see is the sexualisation of young people and that young people are being exploited for financial gain," said Mr Moloney.

"I'm sure retailers in Dundalk are just selling them as a fashion accessory without knowing the bracelets have been given another meaning.

"I don't think shopkeepers and younger children realise the meaning.

"Kids see stars wearing them and want to copy people in the magazines."

The meanings of the different colours of the bands varies from region to region and the phenomenon, which originated in the UK, has even spread as far as Australia.

According to Ms Lynch, the main problem with the bands is that they are giving young children a "sexual language" that puts them at risk.

"These bands may be the craze at the moment but if it wasn't these so-called 'shag bands' it would be something else. The bands are cheap -- at around €1 -- and so are well within the range of children with pocket money.

"What we really need to look at are the root causes of early sexualisation: how it is happening, what impact it is having on our children and how, as parents and a society, we will deal with it," Ms Lynch added.

"Even if you look at TV and advertising, as well as the rise of social networking on the web, it is all highly sexualised. No one is saying we should revert to Victorian values but there is a balance to be struck.

"Early sexualisation of children starts to give them a sexual language that at times they don't understand and that can put them at risk.

"Many children wearing bands on their wrists don't really understand the messages they are giving out.

"But it is giving young children a vocabulary about something they don't understand and are not emotionally developed enough to deal with.

"That's what we need to be concerned with here. The bands are a symptom of that.

"Children with this language, knowledge and information but without the understanding or the developmental or emotional ability to deal with it can find themselves in situations that they are not ready or prepared for. It is putting young people in a difficult and confusing situation and potentially it is putting them at risk."