Monday, July 06, 2009

Young people drink for 'something to do'

Forgive me for asking how revelatory this research is really?

Are these findings shocking? Exactly these observations were in discussion when I was at hisgh school - hanging out at the bus stop with nothing to do surely has been a rule for more than a few decades has it not? It would seem that no one comissioning, carrying out or reporting this research has any recollection of being young and bored? I can remember grandparents grumbling about youngsters having nothing better to do than loafing around street corners drinking instead of going to the youth club when I was fifteen and younger growing up in Northumberland and Newcastle. My family visited friends in Southampton, Milton Keynes, Guildford and Yorkshire and it was exactly the same there. And in Southport and Manchester when at college.

Underage drinking, smoking and doing other stupid things have been the antidote to boredom for generations of kids. I'm not advocating such behaviour in the youth of today - or any era for that matter - ever being fully OK but find it hard to cope with yet more of these shock stories in the media as if this is something new. My recollections of having read remarkably similar stories to this each decade since my youth aren't my imagination playing tricks on me. I hope.

Is it not time that we grew up as a society and learned to acknowledge the repetitive behaviour of generation after generation of youth? It's been going on in northern cold countries for decades at least, if not hundreds of years, even since time began for all I know. This is what young people do. Isn't it? Rebelling, getting pissed off with older people and everyone else in society around them, behaving badly - aren't these the confused symptoms and pains of growing up in a complicated world?

Not everyone is prone to such behaviour, whether educated about the bad things that happen to you if you drink or not. It's not worrying about what drinking will to to them that prevents people drinking young, it's having something stimulating to do, and being able to be stimulated, that does it. The difficulty lies not so much in telling kids about the adverse health aspects of drinking - that's easy to do. What's hard to face up to is the fact that what is more likely to guide children's path to more interesting, healthier activities is better education all round, with far more good quality, accessible youth provision in sports, and arts and more than is readily available now. A much more expensive strategy than a distributing a load of leaflets and boring videos for high tech savvy yout' to get bored by.

It's a tall order but unless the attention of a mature, responsible society which wishes to promote health and wellbeing for all its constituents, is turned to properly facing up to the true costs and concomitant benefits to us all of making our society a better place, we will be reading identical stories to this in the paper rounds for decades to come. Ed Balls knows this, let's hope he manages to break conventions down.

And that's without even considering climate change and what that's going to do to the youth of tomorrow.

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