Leona O'Neill: I'm sorry but Love Island simply isn't suitable viewing for children

I see little or no merit in reality television for adults, and the suggestion that children could learn anything remotely appropriate, not to mind helpful, from Love Island makes me angry, writes Leona O'Neill

Talking to your child about relationships would be more appropriate than letting ITV2's Love Island set their moral compass

ACCORDING to news reports last week, thousands of children have been watching the sex-fuelled antics on Love Island.

Researchers say that kids as young as four are tuning in to the reality dating show which brings single beautiful people together on a luxury island in the hope of finding love. Cue raunchy scenes, crude language, frank conversations about sex, actual sex, shock twists, bitching, fighting and cruel tests of the heart as the contestants couple up and try to win the hearts of the public and each other, as well as a load of money.

I genuinely don't get what would interest a four-year-old about any of that. I'm 42 and it excites and enthuses me as much as watching paint dry does. But several parents – including TV personality Susanna Reid, whose 12-year-old son watches it – have come out online in defence of allowing their children to view the show. They say the show encourages open conversation about sex.

I would argue that talking to your child about love, relationships and sex would be more appropriate than letting a group of drink-fuelled, half naked 20-somethings obsessed with sex toys, threesomes and mile high clubs guide their young minds and set their moral compass.

I swear the spirit of Mary Whitehouse has not entered my body and forced me to speak here, but I'm sick of reality TV forcing a new kind of normal – as in, drunken, self-obsessed, materialistic, morally corrupt, crass, crude, disrespectful, at times cruel and sexually flippant – behaviour on impressionable young people.

Whereas young people might have aspired to be entrepreneurs in the past, they now want to be like ‘businesswoman' Kim Kardashian – who built her mighty empire upon a leaked sex tape – thanks to these shows highlighting her opulent lifestyle.

Love Island feeds into this new mindset, taking beautiful individuals famous for doing absolutely nothing – apart from maybe having sex on television – and then making them rich. Ask a group of teenagers what they want to be when they grow up and at least 50 per cent of them will say ‘rich'. Not a profession, just rich. Getting rich quick is the dream of many young people these days. And that is sad.

I'm not a fan of Love Island, or Big Brother, The Apprentice or Keeping Up With The Kardashians or any reality show that peddles the notion that people are objects that we can make or break for our entertainment. Watching humans treat each other like dirt, make fellow contestants cry or humiliate them, all on camera, for money, is not my idea of entertainment.

My kids wont be watching Love Island because I would prefer if they didn't imagine that how the contestants behave is how respectful men and women do regarding relationships. And my girl will not be watching it as I don't want her imagining that it's OK for her to be treated like an object.

I think Love Island has far too much adult content in it for it to be suitable for a child to watch. It gives a warped perception of relationships, everyone on the island is perfect looking and relationships go from stranger to straight to bed in less time than it would take for Mary Whitehouse to adequately manoeuvre the muscles on her face and fashion a look of disapproval.

I'll not be using it to teach my kids about sex education. And I'll not be watching it, because it's stupid and pointless and just makes me angry at the state of the world.

For any child looking for good moral guidance, advice about love and how to conduct positive sexual relationships, to steal a phrase from my Donegal granny, it's far from Love Island they should be reared.

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