Over the weekend, I happened to check out the blog of a former co-worker of mine: a rather brilliant strategist and British bloke with a wicked sense of humour. Two weeks ago, he posted a commercial for a UK charity named Barnardo’s: an organization campaigning against the demonization of children (yep. You read it right). This notion in and of itself left me dumbfounded. Then I watched the ad.
The spot opens on 3 men discussing what sounds like a group of brutes—some sort of monstrous criminal element—that has been wreaking havoc within the community. As these vigilantes head out to put an end to the madness, loaded shotguns in hand, they finally spot their quarry and open fire. Turns out the “feral” beasts they’re looking to put down are a group of teenagers. And that the comments made by the small band of gun-wielding “concerned citizens” were all taken directly from comments made by readers on various UK newspaper websites.
As a mother of a 5 year-old boy, the thought often crosses my mind: will my son eventually turn into a crazed, hormonal, teen tyrant? Roaming the streets with a hoard of equally crazed teens? Perhaps, to some degree. When I think back to what I was like at that age, and as much as my parents might have felt otherwise, I was a pretty good kid. Sure, I wore black all the time, wrote and drew things that made them uncomfortable, and I listened to loud, scary music. But really, my worst teen crime was that of angst and isolation: the world sucked, my dad sucked, and I wanted to spend as little time with my parents as possible. But I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and didn’t do drugs. And sex? Not even in the picture. The fact is, I wasn’t really interested in any of those things, even though most of my friends drank, smoked, etc., etc. I had enough self-fulfilling problems of my own without adding intoxicants to the mix. Did I ever feel pressure from my peers? Sure, from time to time. But I was stubborn. And when I decided that I didn’t want to do something, I wasn’t about to do it for anybody.
All that being said, even though I’m still young enough to remember what it was like to be a teen, I’m old enough to know how silly my self-imposed torment was. So are kids really worse today than they were when I was growing up (isn’t that what every generation says)? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just different. Computers make it so much easier for children and teens to explore certain areas of interest (i.e. sex) than it used to be. I suppose that the social aspect of the web has its benefits in that it also makes it easier for children in need to find help; however, with so many things out in the open (but out of view of the prying eyes of parents) it makes it easier for youngin’s to get away with outrageous behavior, if they so choose. Obviously, some don’t really seem to care if they’re caught being bad, as evidenced by numerous cases of teens uploading videos of fights, drug binges—and whatever else comes to mind—on sites such as YouTube. I mean, in a fame obsessed society, it’s a matter of “Get your 15 minutes at any cost”, right?
Sadly, I think that today’s kids and teens live in a world so different, that many of us will never fully understand where they’re coming from. Which is perhaps why so many people (particularly the elderly and those who aren’t often exposed to children) view them with such suspicion and disdain. And with the added factor of living in a socio-economic climate where both parents are often working (even at home) and are inclined to be emotionally disconnected, the problem becomes magnified. Because who do kids turn to when mom and dad aren’t around? Each other, of course—online and off. They turn to each other to learn, to share experiences and to grow. But when you’re leaving a group of people who are emotionally naive and inexperienced to their own devices, how can you possibly expect that they’ll learn to cope with life in a productive way? It’s a bit of the blind leading the blind, isn’t it?
So in the end, thanks to the wonders of the web, my eyes were opened to the reality that many people have a horrid, negative view of children and teens. And I hope that others become aware of this social issue as well since some of these “monsters” aren’t just rebellious teens—they’re children who have been beaten down and abused by society and their own families. However, as the mother of an all-too-quickly growing child, I can’t help but wonder if part of the problem is that there’s such a thing as knowing too much, too soon?
It’s a crazy web world…