The fear of young people damages us all
The British public are constantly bombarded with horror stories about innocent individuals being attacked by young people on our streets. Is the fear that has developed from this actually damaging us? This debate seeks to answer this question, additionally addressing which groups are damaged, if this damage is justified and whether it is fair to label all young people in this statement.
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We wrap our own children in cotton wool
The fear of youth, known as ‘ephebiphobia’, is more prevalent in our society than ever. As a result of this, parents are so afraid of their children becoming those who are feared or mixing with the violent, disruptive individuals that they keep them indoors, instead of going outside to play and socialise with other children. This can stunt their psychological development and fuel the obesity in children that has already severely damaged our nation. Keeping our children inside in an effort to protect them, ultimately damages the next generation.
Letting your children out to play does pose a risk: the media projects so many stories of abduction and the danger on our streets that it is no surprise that parents would rather keep their kids indoors. We cannot watch them all the time, so it is assuring to know they are in their bedroom, sheltered from the dangers of the outside world. Here, they are not damaged.
Fearing a whole group is unfair to the minority
Not only does the fear of young people damage small children, the fear of young people also unfairly labels the youths who do focus on their education and do not get involved in the violence that has become so notorious. Community support officers in local areas describe how they are constantly moving youths along on the streets, who swig from bottles of cider and cans of beer. However, contact with the police in my area and surrounding areas tell me that generally, these youths do not intend to frighten anyone and are very responsive: they simply have nowhere else to go. There is clearly something at home that causes them to prefer being on our dangerous streets. This damages our perception of young people by ‘tarring them all with the same brush’ and if our opinion of them does not improve, the next generation will collectively be damaged.
This argument only works if society looks to the bigger picture. The gullible among us believe everything we read in the newspaper, which is a constant news assault of badly-behaved teens. Perhaps this would not be so damaging if British citizens looked to their local newspapers: often stories of their kids in schools doing well, doing charity work etc. We need not fear young people if we only took the time to learn about the situation.
Intervening with young groups has had bad results
Not only does this fear damage small children and the well-behaved youths of today, but British adults also have cause to fear young people. British adults who have the courage to stand up to young people who are behaving badly have had tragic consequences. Gary Newlove confronted a group of teens about vandalism and was murdered for doing so (1). Stephen Green, a former soldier, was cycling home from work in 2008, when four youths battered him to death (2). Those who intervene or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time have been killed by young people. Of course our fear is growing when we hear these disturbing stories everyday. But, unfortunately, until we get a Government with a backbone and an effective prison system, maybe this fear is justified. Whilst it may be unfair to fear young people, maybe this keeps us alive? Gary Newlove had no or very little fear, yet look what happened to him.
Obviously, we should never have to hear about these tragedies, but these are often isolated incidents and give us no cause to fear young people. There is a reason why the media publicises these incidents; they are not common. These are a very small minority of teenagers and still do not justify us fearing them. If we truly believe that young people are a threat, then of course, our opinions will be damaged. But stories of one or two badly-behaved children should not be damaging our outlook on hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Youngsters face greater risks on the internet
As a consequence of the above, parents further damage their children by keeping them indoors. This alters the way they interact with each other socially: instead of being able to hold a conversation with each other, face-to-face, young children are finding it a way of life to text each other, email each other, facebook each other. Is this really what we want for our children? Keeping them indoors on the internet may physically be safer, but whilst they are on the internet, there is an equal chance they will be contacted by someone with less good intentions, of which we have all heard horror stories. Parents could be damaging their children and putting them at bigger risk by letting them contact anyone on the internet, instead of playing outside with their next-door neighbour.
while this does, by and large, have an effect on the youth, it doesn't address the effect on the adults. the youth being at greater risk of negative interactions by being kept indoors causes no harm (directly/immediately) to the older populace other than psychological discomfort.
It is stupid to fear a group
Maybe this argument seems unfounded, but the whole concept of ‘fearing a group’ and resulting in this ‘damaging us all’ simply seems ridiculous! Whilst I acknowledge that maybe I come from an area where young people cause less trouble, and adults are still willing to stand up to badly-behaved youths and therefore do not fear them, it is absurd thinking that fear of a group can actually damage us. There are many fears in life: spiders, heights and the dark etc but in order to avoid any damage, we confront them. Fearing any group of individuals, whether it be young people, black people or even doctors’ just sounds stupid and ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the concept of fearing a group does silly, but we are not looking at this fear specifically. I have walked past a group of kids on a street corner drinking and smoking, generally being loud and disruptive. I admit to holding my breath and hoping they do not spot me. Why should we be made to feel like this? Although I personally do not wish to acknowledge that this fear does maybe damage me and my perception, this sort of situation is universally treated with trepidation.
The only thing we fear is fear itself
The fear of young people does not damage us; it is the fear that is the problem. If adults only took the time to learn about why teenagers are roaming the streets, maybe we can understand more and the fear would lessen. Perhaps this is a radical idea, but maybe we could actually do something about it instead of sitting at home and worrying about your own children and scared for your husband who is walking to the shops at night?! We are only damaged when this fear engulfs us and allow it to take us over and this is something that the individual needs to address.
Whilst being pro-active about the situation does sound desirable, what can we do? The majority of the public are already concerned with their own troubles, without dedicating more of their time to making their streets safer. And is that not the Government’s job? Until something is done, we will continue to be damaged.
Do we fear the behaviour, as opposed to young people?
Further supporting previous points that have been raised, an alternative look may need to be taken. How do you feel when you walk past a group of college students in the afternoon, all wearing their college identity tags and chatting to each other? How do you feel when you walk past a group of girls in the evening, who are not smoking or drinking, but making their way to a party? How do you feel walking past a group of grungers? The fear of young people does not damage us: it is the fear of noisy young people, at night, drinking and smoking on a street corner, dressed like chavs, so that their faces are concealed under hats? We fear the behaviour, the specific setting, the time of day and the way we cannot identify the young people. Young people, in general, do not damage us at all.
What do you think?