When you ask me about anti-social behaviour, the first thing that comes into my head is kids. It shouldn’t really, but that stigma is so attached to young people that it ends up creating a bigger problem for society.
In fact, adults are just as likely to be the ones to throw a bottle, play loud music at all hours or shout and swear in public. Yet we tend to stereotype youngsters for doing these things.
A lot of kids do behave a certain way on the street, which can be intimidating. But in my youth work, I always find that if you take the time to actually speak to them, you’ll find that it’s just bravado.
We forget how it feels to be a child. Adults need to cast their mind back and realise that it’s not really that different these days, except that we are expecting people to grow up much faster.
I’m just amazed at what little kids can get done for on the internet right now. The technology means you are put in a position of responsibility before you really understand what’s going on. When we were young, you could say and do stupid things and you might get a slap on the wrist, but post something bad online today and you can bag yourself a criminal record.Adults haven’t caught up with these pressures that the young generation are growing up with, so we’re not really doing a good job of educating them, and we certainly don’t understand the way they communicate.
When I was young, you had to go out to socialise, and you had to get really organised if you were going to meet up with people. But today, everything is immediate on your phone, and that completely new process is something society is only just coming to accept.
I often ask kids, “Do you lot talk?” We’re busy teaching them that everything happens from your phone, from chatting to friends to submitting their homework. It’s so convenient you don’t need to step outside or to speak to anyone, and that’s a bit scary – anti-social, in fact.
At the same time the message we give them is that the outside world is dangerous. Where I grew up, on Caledonian Road, we had a real community. All our parents worked collectively to look out for us, so they trusted we could just take off and play, or run to the shops. Today, my little boy doesn’t go out like that, and he’s twelve.
And I think, why are we more scared as parents? I didn’t think there was a problem, but the world keeps telling me that it’s scary out there, so I find myself peering at him out of the window feeling worried.Danger has always been here. It’s not come up in the last ten years, but we hear so much more about it.
Yet the reality is that the paedophiles aren’t pulling up in cars with sweets, they’re sitting online now, able to manipulate from their living rooms, so the street is probably safer than sitting in front of a screen.
And for the young ones that do venture out, they can get served with an ASBO just for kicking a ball about in the little park by their flats; suddenly it’s an offence.
So is it really the kids who are being anti-social, or us framing them that way at every turn? They’ve got to grow up to the new realities of our world quicker than ever, but so do we all.
I’m going to try and check my own assumptions. And maybe, by looking at things in a different light, I can help them prove me wrong too.