Young people are fearful, not feral

Lucie Russell
Teenagers-jc_077_article_detail
4 Nov 2011

Yesterday’s poll by Barnardo’s is both depressing and frustrating. It shows that nearly half the UK population agree that children today are beginning to behave like animals.

Shockingly, 44 per cent agree that children in this country are becoming feral, and nearly half (47%) agree that the trouble with young people is that they’re angry, violent and abusive.

Do we adults not understand the context we have created for young people to be growing up in? Anyone with children of their own knows that their futures are full of uncertainty and their young lives are stressful. One in three children are growing up in poverty. Meanwhile, schools are turning into exam factories with young people suffering from increasing anxiety because of the culture of constant testing that has developed in the education system.

Post-16, young people are not only faced with the challenge to get to university due to increasing tuition fees; they also know there are very few jobs out there. With record youth unemployment, young people know they are facing a highly competitive job market and believe that their prospects are generally dismal.

Materialism, too, has a pervading influence on children and young people. British young people are slaves to status symbols in ways that did not exert the same pressures as in the past, but we as adults are yet to fully take responsibility for this situation and think seriously about what we can do to limit the dangerous influence materialism has on young people.

Added to that, most adults are so absorbed in the struggle to make ends meet that young people miss out on quality time with parents, the chief providers of attachment, bonding and boundary setting which are the foundations of a stable upbringing.

If we don’t start to understand the context of young people’s lives and stop demonizing them, their suffering will only increase and present itself in ever- increasing mental health problems, addictions and anti-social behaviour. It’s time to stop judging young people and start understanding them and their experience of growing up in the 21st century.

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