Generation missing out on real adventures

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Getting towards the end of my working life, I've been one of the lucky ones. Born after the deprivations of war, into a life cushioned by a welfare state and the National Health Service, I am truly blessed. I was brought up before TV swamped family life, before every stranger was considered a threat and before the internet dominated the world.

We played outside, rode our bikes and were polite to teachers, especially those with a short fuse and a burny belt. We ate school dinners - no choice but, on a good day, there might be seconds. We called for each other, knocking on doors and asking if our pals were coming out to play. We went to parties and played Blind Man's Buff and said "thank you for having me" on the way out the door.

As teenagers, we snogged the faces off each other, but sex was kept for later. We feared pregnancy and the nuclear bomb. We watched Top of the Pops and screamed at the Beatles. Leaving school, there were jobs. Jobs had pensions.

Nowadays, society is more muddled. Learning and teaching is better, but boundaries are looser and young people find it harder to keep on track. They don't play outside as much, or have adventures as we did. Instead, computer games obsess them.

Children born today will have a shorter life span than their parents - due to lack of exercise and too much junk food. They see and hear too much - the internet and videos mean that many children have access to information they can't possibly understand properly.

Young people find it harder to find work and, with more graduates than ever, have to accept jobs well below their qualifications. Work pensions are being phased out and the retirement age is getting older. Divorce statistics grow and families get more and more muddled. Not good for kids.

On the surface, today's children seem to be having fun, with more freedom than ever before. Yet they suffer more stress, more mental health issues and many have low self-esteem

Kids need security. They need to get out to play, learn how to make rules and climb trees. They need bedrooms without TVs and computers. These children will be tomorrow's adults, but they will not cope unless they are given the space to grow up - as we were.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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