Farewell to youthful folly?
Well I don’t know about anyone else, (actually I do but my lips are sealed) but I can admit to more than one youthful indiscretion in my teenage years. They petered out by the time I was around 18, because I realised that some of this really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
So no partial or full disclosures here, just a frank admission that there were times and situations at which my mature self looks back in frank amazement at what my precocious self got up to. But reader, I did more than survive to tell the tale. I emerged from adolescence unscathed, although I know not everyone does, but I guess someone or something was looking after me.
This week we learned that alcohol consumption is decreasing amongst the young. We all know why, and an item on the news confirmed it; a BBC crew talked to a group of schoolchildren aged around 14 in their classroom while the question was posed: ‘Do any of you drink alcohol?’ No one blinked or moved a muscle. Next question: ‘Have any of you tried alcohol?’ No one blinked or moved a muscle. Not a finger was raised in assent.
The reporter then interviewed a few of the pupils. One girl articulated the answer for all of them: ‘Well, now that anything we do can be photographed and posted on social media, we can’t risk anything that might show us behaving ‘badly’ being shared and possibly picked up later by a prospective employer and ruining our reputation’.
So there you have it; the reputational sword of Damocles now hangs over every teenage neck. One slip and their whole future is apparently at stake. I thought one of the advantages of youth was to make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. But now you can’t make a mistake because the world is watching, constantly.
On October 11th, the International Day of the Girl, I have been invited by the organisers of WOW, the Women of the World Festival, to act as a mentor to teenage girls as we move gracefully round on the London Eye. I am looking forward to learning first hand about their hopes and aspirations.
But are they ever going to be allowed to misbehave? I am reminded of an evening when my daughter was a teenager, and she arrived home at the agreed time (good girl!) but accompanied by one of her classmates, who was so drunk he could barely stand up. We sent him home in a taxi, which we paid for. We never got thanked by his parents, but we were just glad to get rid of him before he threw up in our sitting room. There are no photos of this, and I am sure the chap concerned doesn’t remember a thing.
The implications of this new lifelong censorship are many, but to take just one, I fear it is going to have severe repercussions for the entertainment industry. Films, for example: how could American Graffiti be made in today’s climate? Or West Side Story? Would Reefer Madness, an anti-drugs propaganda film made in the 1930s resonate?
How about Foxes, made by David Puttnam in 1980? The IMDb entry describes it as: ‘A group of four teenage girls come of age in the asphalt desert of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, arranged with a blazing soundtrack and endless drinking, drugs and sex’. That’ll go down well with today’s prim youngsters.
And although both were taken from books, I can’t see films of St Trinian’s or Lord of the Flies making any sense to today’s young people. But with the help of a solar charger, could an iPhone have saved Piggy?