Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Being a teenager in the 70's meant for some of us being teased in the playground and ostracised by your peers. People talk about peer pressure nowadays and we all know how much harder all of that is because of social media and the constant reality TV messaging. Those days we had the scapegoats and bullying was pretty subtle, so being the one with glasses, the one with a weight issue, the one with ginger hair meant you were sniggered at and excluded because of these so named 'defects'. I remember telling my peers I didn't want to smoke because I only smoked menthol and detested Marlborough fags. I also got caught shoplifting 'gifts' with a group of friends, the shopkeeper told the Headmaster and he called us into his office for a telling off and made us write to the shop keeper saying how sorry we were. Then he told our parents and I got a spanking with a flip flop.
Nowadays, children are made to feel even more humiliated by the lack of inhibition of children who use social media to bully and harass others.
The worst things the 'cool people' ever did for notoriety were getting caught shoplifting and smoking behind the bike shed. It was a very rare thing for a teenage pregnancy to be reported at high school. Today there are reports of stabbings at the hand of peers; of teenage suicides and self harming because of being bullied. We hear of teenage murderers and are outraged, some blaming their parents, some blaming society and some blaming both. Teenagers don't stop at tobacco smoking, some move on to vaping and others to illegal drugs. Shoplifting isn't a few sweets or cheap lipsticks from Woolworth's; it can be a whole operation commandeered and orchestrated like a master bank robbery.
My constant worry is that there are people born in the 40's who are making policy around how we support and care for the young people of this era. They are not getting it right; child and adolescent mental health services are the saddest services of all time because they should not be full, they should not be needed to the extent they are. Somehow we are getting oh so wrong. Young people may be privileged and pandered or neglected and criminalised; yet above all I worry that they are all far more likely to suffer because things both good and bad, just are far more accessible.
You may think my rantings are dismissing the impact of growing up in the 70's, not at all. Bullying is never acceptable and will have an impact on anyone. Sadly, I worry that these days, the frequency and intensity of it has grown to horrible proportions. How can we truly combat this? How can we change culture? I don't have the answers, I just worry.