Saturday, January 24, 2009

Menace to society: kids hanging out

I'm a trustee of a local young people charity called Audioactive and we were recently revisiting our PEST analysis, which is in exercise in looking at political, social, economic and technological factors that can impact on your organisation and its work.

One of the things that came up in our analysis was the fact that nine years on, the media and general public are still tarring and feathering young people - it's something we still find shocking. 

Back in 2000, the anti-social flavor of the month used to be ASBO kids, skateboarding, hoodies and graffiti; now it's knife crime. The papers across the country have gone knife mad, tacking campaigns on to this easy target - it started in London last summer and slowly got scooped up by Brighton local rag, the Argus.

Audioactive works with children and young people, building their confidence and skills in music, music technology, djing, art and the performing arts. It's also the kind of organisation that's worked with the city's toughest ASBO and at-risk kids, in pupil referral units, community centres and alternative schools. We know what's going down in the underground, and while knives are more of a problem than they were a decade ago (probably), it's not the issue it is in Brighton that it is in London. 

Highlighting social problems is not inherently bad, but forcing facts to fit a theory where it may not be true is dangerous. Put an unnatural spotlight on a phenomemnon - don't be surprised when the "alarm" becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I feel for today's teens - who wasn't challenging when they were that age?  You can't generalise a nation of young people by a handful of incidents that happened in inner-city, deprived conditions. Most young people are just trying to survive the ever-increasing stresses, hormones and challenges of this fast-paced world.

The media feeds and is fed by the fear adults have of young people, but a bigger concern is for young people who feel unsafe amongst other young people - and who find it harder to protect themselves than adults. Sensationalist handling of this situation does not help. 

Why doesn't the press focus on other, more problematic areas? Institutional racism and the police? Rich kids with too many drugs? White collar crime? Oh yeah, we're in a recession because of white collar crime. Nearly forgot. 

I read a statistic recently that white middle class and affluent young people in England are more likely to have drugs than their Black counterparts. I can believe it.

I went to an inner city magnet high school where half the students were Black, with FOUR crack houses around the perimeter. Sure there were drugs in the area, but I never saw any drug deals in school, we only had one incident where someone (not from our school) brought a gun. In my senior year, the police did a drug bust of two rich, white high schools and made the biggest drug bust to date. Not the problem, Black, inner city kids that the media would otherwise love to report on. 

So what ever will be next? 

Thanks to Audioactive Chair Dom Green for emailing this article feature in the Onion to us as it sums up the media-created paranoia that grips people today.

Area Teen Up To Something January 24, 2009 | Issue 45•04 

GREENFIELD, OH—A local teenager, standing on the corner of Spring Street and Dunlap Lane, is clearly up to some kind of no good, neighborhood sources reported Thursday. Enlarge Imag Neighbors are keeping close watch on the teen, who has an unsettling number of pockets. The teenager, spotted by Greenfield residents at approximately 4:36 p.m., has been described as tall, suspiciously quiet, and almost certainly looking for trouble. According to concerned sources, the teenager has absolutely no business being out there like that. "Just look at him," said Bob Page, one of several men and women currently watching the 14-year-old from their living room window. "That boy's definitely up to something." Signs that the teenager may be up to no good have so far included his hunched over posture, the way he keeps looking around with his eyes, and the fact that he probably owns a number of those violent video games.  Residents told reporters that they are especially troubled by the teenager's hooded sweatshirt, which he is wearing with the hood drawn, despite it not even raining outside.  "I don't like how I can't see his face," said homemaker Ellen Campbell, who attributed the teen's erratic behavior to the lack of positive role models in today's music industry. "He'd show his face if he weren't thinking of doing something wrong. I bet he's thinking of doing something wrong right now." read more

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Tara said...

Ugh, don't talk to me about The Argus. I do feel for kids now, when they are viewed so negatively - and, as their parents, so are we. Just can't win. On the other hand, I've lived on an estate where kids were hanging outside all the time, and it did feel a bit menacing though nothing bad happened. So I can see both sides, but I wish we would just look at the bigger picture instead of scapegoating young people who are sidelined enough already.

8:34 AM  

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