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Growing Up in the 21st Century

Growing Up in the 21st Century

‘What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?’

The media tells us on a daily basis what is wrong with our young people. Mental health issues are on the rise. Teenagers have trouble sleeping. Screen use is unchecked. ADHD rates are spiralling upwards. Pornography addiction is commonplace. Concentration spans are declining. The list of problems goes on and on and it can all become rather depressing. As an antidote to the gloom, let me tell you about three key bits of wisdom to which I keep returning.

1. The academic research behind the causal links mentioned above is still in its infancy. It is far too early to tell what the effects of social media use may be. To fill the void between experience and considered conclusions, the media peddles old stereotypes about teenagers which arrive at the over-used conclusion that they are a sloppy, ill-disciplined bunch who pose a threat to the future prosperity of our society.

2. Growing up for this generation is a significantly different experience from the one we had when we were young. Therefore we risk alienation if we, as parents and teachers, rush blindly to impose our rules on our students and children. We must include them in discussions, listen to them, and build trust with them, rather than laying down our authority unilaterally.

3. We must be careful not to jump to conclusions which are withering and negative. When researching this article I came across the quotation at the top. As you may have guessed, these aren’t the words of a contemporary politician or commentator. They were written by Plato in ancient Athens. Sadly, our views about the next generation haven’t really moved on much since then.

I have really enjoyed working with some of the Year 12 this term on two really important areas of school life: screen use and mental health. Last year we ask the IB Psychology group to help author the screen policy, and this year we asked them to help review it. Their findings, and the screen use policy itself, are contained within this week’s Courier. I am very proud of the work they have done and the engagement they, and the Mental Health Society, have shown with this issue. The screen policy is something we will look to further embed over the course of the next academic year, to make the school an even more vibrant, challenging and human place in which to live, learn and work.

Ed Burnett, Deputy Head