Suddenly if you're young, you must be bad

1st August 2008 at 01:00

No one can escape the demonisation of young people; it is on the news every day. People look upon teenagers as trouble-makers, stereotyping us all with our unruly counterparts.

The stories on the news tell only of a small minority of children; they do not highlight the overall picture and rarely cover our achievements.

If we excel in our exams, then they must be getting easier. Young people are put down rather than celebrated, and the pressure of exams is belittled.

During the teenage years, young people are put under a lot of strain and pressure. Seriously messing up could affect our lives irreparably. We have to make many decisions that some adults would find impossible. In addition, there is much peer pressure to not complete work inside and outside of school, and to dress in the latest fashions.

If you do not comply with these ideas, bullying can happen which makes a child's world a living hell. No one should have the right to bully anyone, and no one should have to experience it at any stage in their life, but the teenage years are notoriously the most difficult.

As well as these modern-day social pressures, there are those who care for dependants who cannot care for themselves, like parents, siblings and grandparents. These amazing children do not have to care for their loved ones, but look on it as a duty bound by love. This fact is rarely reported in the news, it is sidelined in favour of "Knife crime hell" or "War on our streets". Such headlines and soundbites provide a distorted microcosm of reality and the truth is lost.

One in four young people out of the 700,000 in Wales are living in poverty. This is due to reasons such as one-parent families, multiple siblings, and low-paid incomes to name but a few.

These disadvantaged youngsters can find school and social gatherings difficult. The government focuses its attention, and therefore its definition of poverty, on the financial. But many young people are perhaps, more importantly, culturally deprived. Some have never read a book outside of school. Is it surprising that they often turn to gangs or the TV for their comfort? Most young people who are exposed to culture will grow into responsible, enlightened men and women.

Adults and young people need to work together to ensure that a positive message about today's generation is delivered tomorrow as much as the negative one is today. It is more important now than ever that we recognise and reward those who deserve it, and try and help those on the fringes of society. If we are positive and inclusive, then perhaps we can change some young people and their media image.

Of course, let's not forget that teenagers also have the right to be young and carefree without the burdens of adulthood, which come all too soon.

Rebekah Hughes is 15. She is a pupil at Pen-y-Dre High School in Merthyr Tydfil.

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