Child friendly, teen unfriendly

Britain has become more friendly to children but our friendship
apparently still lasts only until they reach puberty. Of course
it’s nothing new to hear that teenagers feel misunderstood by
adults and demonised by the media. Indeed in some respects things
are improving for teenagers. The government has invested heavily in
services for young people, and introduced changes, including those
to the youth justice system, which have had at their heart the
welfare of vulnerable teens. Unfortunately these positive policies
are now being overshadowed by other priorities which are in danger
of increasing young people’s sense of alienation, and
reinforcing popular hostility to adolescents. Banning young people
from meeting in public places as the Antisocial Behaviour Bill will
do is reminiscent of the worst sort of political repression. The
implication is that teenagers are by definition dangerous, and one
likely consequence is that young people will lose respect for the
law. How do you explain to a 13 year old that they may be stopped
by the police and challenged for walking along the street with a
friend, or meeting up with classmates in the park on a summer
afternoon. The children’s organisations who are campaigning
against this shocking measure deserve full support.

The latest research on how adolescent brains develop can perhaps
bring us new insights into why the early teenage years can be such
a turbulent time. Biology is unlikely to be the only factor in
adolescent behaviour, but if these discoveries allow us to stop
wringing our hands so much, they might contribute to a more relaxed
and understanding attitude to our young people. A teen-friendly
society may be too much to hope for, but less teen-phobic would do
for now.

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