Streets infested with children

17 Nov 2008 by Karl Hallam

If it was not for the word 'infested' this could be a positive headline. During Cadence's consultation on children's play in Somerset someone said that 'the message to children and young people, from adults, about their place in the public realm is very confusing - they want them away from the TV and Playstations, but not playing outside near their homes'. It always seemed a succint way of capturing the current confusion in the public discourse about the youth of today. The person who came up with this quote worked for Barnardo's and it is their poll that found that 35% agreed with the proposition that 'nowadays it feels like the streets are infested with children'.

The BBC's social policy correspondant, Kim Catcheside, takes a typically intelligent approach to the topic and looks at how there is a long, very long in fact, history of lamenting the youth of today. She writes:

"What is happening to our children? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets." A quote from the Telegraph newspaper in 2008?

No, that quote is attributed to the philosopher Plato, born more than 400 years before Christ.

Let's try another.

"The manners of children are deteriorating... the child of today is coarser more vulgar... than his parents were." A leader from the Daily Mail in 2008?

No, that was CG Heathcote, the stipendiary magistrate for Brighton in 1898, giving evidence to an inquiry on juvenile delinquency.

At a recent meeting to discuss the blueprint for club based youth work a hot topic of debate was how to deal with the overhwhelmingly negative treatment of young people in the media. There seems to be very little linking of the tragedy of children growing up in environments like Baby P and their subsequent difficulties making the transition into adulthood.

Some would say that the presence of young people playing on the street is a sign of a healthy community. How many people who would accept the use of the 'infested' also think obesity and computer games are a disgrace too?

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