Hampstead and Highgate duo on mission to talk to teens in schools about sex, likes and social media

Sex, Likes and Social Media authors Deana Puccio and Allison Havey

Sex, Likes and Social Media authors Deana Puccio and Allison Havey - Credit: Archant

A determined duo from across the pond who brought up their children in north west London are on a mission to encourage healthy relationships among young people and teach them about the many pitfalls surrounding social media.

Channing School Year 12 students listening to a Rapp Project talk.

Channing School Year 12 students listening to a Rapp Project talk. - Credit: Archant

Allison Havey and Deana Puccio, who live in Hampstead and Highgate respectively, have taken it upon themselves to visit as many schools as possible to talk to students about the teenage issues that worry them the most.

Having co-written the book, Sex, Likes and Social Media: Talking to our teens in the digital age, both are committed to trying to familiarise young people with topics that most teachers would be reluctant to tackle.

Dating, consent, parties, travelling abroad and pornography are just some of the topics that Alison and Deana are invited to speak on at schools, which have included Camden School for Girls, Parliament Hill and Fortismere School.

Deana, a former assistant district attorney, worked as a sex crimes prosecutor on cases involving adult, teenage and child victims, before linking up with fellow New Yorker Allison – a journalist who has worked all over the world – to form The Rap Project.

Sex, Likes and Social Media book cover.

Sex, Likes and Social Media book cover. - Credit: Archant

The project’s aim is to raise awareness about personal safety and prevention in areas of rape and sexual assault, while openly discussing how pornography and social media influence attitudes and expectations.

Both women are now committed to encouraging children to open up about subjects that they may not be comfortable with teachers, families or even their friends.

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Deana said: “Our talks are direct, hard-hitting, but also humorous. Because of our American accents, I feel like the students listen to us. We are often asked to come back.

“We keep learning so many things whenever we go to these schools. Sexual words that we have never even heard before, some of which have shocked us. But every school is different, so it is an organic experience.

“Every student reacts differently. We have some Year 8 students who are interested in boys and others are still holding their teddy bears.”

A couple of the biggest concerns that have surfaced time and time with students the pair have spoken to are body image and social lives – two parts of life which have mutated due to the impact of social media.

Websites such as Daily Mail Showbiz are awash with photos of celebrities flaunting their perfectly toned bodies in staged Instagram posts, often giving young people unrealistic examples of what they should aspire to look like.

Young people are in turn almost competing against each other to collect as much digital recognition as possible, a ‘mission’ that Alison feels is unhealthy.

“There is a rush for likes,” she said. “Not receiving any can cause social anxiety.

“The trouble with social media is that you are seeing your friends together on Facebook and you can be left out. Where is the discretion? You don’t have to tell people about everything you are doing, and to seek their approval.

“What happened to exploring outside or reading a book?”

“People are more interested in reality television stars these days, but then again our own president Donald Trump is a reality television star.”

Although the pair admit they are “on a mission”, it is also a “real labour of love” which they don’t want to force onto anyone.

Deana added: ““We are not preaching morality, we are teaching reality. My biggest concern is unhealthy relationships between young people, so hopefully we are doing our bit to ensure there are as many healthy relationships as possible.”

You can buy the book by searching for Sex, Likes and Social Media: Talking to our teens in the digital age on amazon.co.uk.