Fear of youth - Hoodie, goodie, buddy

17 Mar 2009 by Karl Hallam

During Cadence's work on youth provision, play and youth justice sensible people have often reminded us that youth have been seen as a problem throughout history. They often refer to newspaper articles from 100 years ago. Today psychologist and TV presenter Tanya Byron trumps them all with a reference to youth problems in Egypt 6,000 years ago.

She quotes an Egyptian tomb:

'We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.'

Dr Byron then adds that:

'Such quotes illustrate what I believe has become a historically nurtured and culturally damaging phenomenon: ephebiphobia - the fear of youth. But today this problem is worse than ever.'

It is difficult to be definitive about the problem being worse today, but there does seem to have been a particulalry unpleasant tone to the media's coverage of young people in recent years. The Government has responded with ASBOs, clamp downs and moving more young people into the criminal justicce system, as well as promoting positive activities and tip toeing towards restorative justice approaches.

Cadence has recently been successful in a bid to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's New Insights and Innovations programme with a proposal that looks at perceptions of young people. Below is a summary of the project:The Hoodie, goodie, buddy projects aims to examine the relationships between mode of transport and people's perceptions of the places where they live and the other people who use them. The project is based on a story that was developed for use in public consultations on the use of greenspace, play and youth provision.

An urban road passes alongside a park. Three youths wearing hoodies are sitting together on the back of a park bench. Someone drives past in a car and sees ‘a gang hanging about in the park who are up to no good'. A passenger on a bus that stops at the local stop notices them and wonders: ‘What are they up to?' Someone cycling through the park hears that they are talking about their A level homework, and a person walking past recognises their neighbour's son and says: ‘Hi'.

The park bench captures two features of contemporary society. The obvious one is the negative perceptions of young people using public spaces. The second less direct feature is the decreased interaction between fellow residents of a neighbourhood with the growth in car use and reduction in walking and cycling. The park bench story begs the question: Do people who walk and cycle around their local area take a more positive view of the other people who live, play and use it?

The Hoodie, goodie, buddy project is a collaboration of Cadence Works, Sheffield University, Surrey University. The team will carry out four pieces of research aiming to develop and understanding of the park bench scenario:

1. Interviews with people who use different modes of transport in different environments. The interviews will focus on people's travel through their particular local environment and on their sense of connection to their (social and physical) local environment.
2. An experimental study using different speed videos of a journey featuring the park bench scenario. This would test the hypothesis that different modes of transport influence people's perceptions of their environment and in particular their inclination to use stereotypes to describe young people on a park bench.
3. A quantitative component would investigate the potential of the British Social Attitudes and British Crime surveys to provide a broader data- and mapping-led understanding of the issues raised by the park bench scenario. This would be a feasibility study to determine whether the data could support a future, larger mapping project.
4. The use of a range of Emotion Mapping of ‘typical' journeys, overseen by Christian Nold. One technique that may be used is Bio-mapping where participants are asked to wear a device that measures the wearer's magnitude and speed of emotional arousal. The device measures ‘arousal' in conjunction with the wearer's geographical location, using GPS technology.

The final report will have a strong narrative that appeals to readers from a wide range of backgrounds. The emotional mapping and video elements offer the chance to present some of the findings in an innovative way that influences public policy relating to neighbourhoods.

 

 

 

 

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