The Youth of Today – Hopeful or Hopeless?

Jonathan Ross: Today, I am going to present a one-off Radio two special, arguing the societal pressures facing our kids today. Extensive research has gone into the statistics that I will present. Several young people aged 13 to 21 were interviewed, and also a large number of adults have been interviewed to draw up a balanced conclusion to the findings.

Firstly, I am going to speak out regarding the enormity of peer pressure in schools today. “What do you mean by peer pressure?” I hear you ask. “What exactly does it mean?”

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Well, by peer pressure, I mean the underestimated influence that friends and social groups have on each other. What I want to focus on, though, is the accessibility of various substances like drugs, tobacco and alcohol. I consider it essential to point out the extent kids will go to in order to fit in with their social groups.

Second, I will talk today about media influence, and by media influence, I refer to the unprecedented levels of persuasion that invasive lifestyle magazines, and tabloids can exert over us.

Thirdly, I want to talk all about academic pressure. By this, I’m referring to the incessant claim that exams are being made easier. It’s something that has been alienating me for some time now.

Finally, I’d like to talk about parents, and the apparent lack of responsibility exhibited by them in some cases.

So, to recap, I will speak about peer pressure to begin with, then I will discuss media influence, followed by academic pressure on kids, then I will finish with the parents.

So, peer pressure. Now we know it has always been a problem in schools, because let’s face it, teachers can’t be around all the time, whereas kids are! Based on recent research, 80% of kids said they’d be willing to try something if all their friends were doing it. This is an alarming percentage, don’t you think? [stricter tone] Moreover, 55% of the kids I interviewed said they could get access to ‘soft’ drugs like ‘weed’ and ‘skunk’. This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. Wouldn’t you all agree? [/stricter tone]

Next, I would like to talk about the influence the media can exercise over people. Yes, I said people, not just kids! It is widely recognized that the media wields a very strong grasp over the British public. But the media can, and does persuade children every day to pester their parents into purchasing the latest toy or gadget. What’s more is that the media even have the power to make children insecure about themselves. A shocking 95% of females under 21 that I interviewed said they have seen at least one woman in a lifestyle magazine that they would like to look like. This is staggering! The media can also instigate feelings of jealousy and even hatred between kids. We have all heard of the social categories youths place each other in today. Emos. Chavs. Townies. Goths.

Research indicates that 75% of kids interviewed said their opinions on other social categories have been formed and/or heavily influenced through their friends’ opinions and opinions they see in the media. It is proof that the media can tell children how to dress, and even how to look! Surely children should be making their own choices regarding their appearance. Something we can all agree on, right?

As I said earlier: Thirdly, I will talk about academic pressure. Let me start by saying that exams aren’t getting easier! How can we encourage kids to work harder and harder in their studies to achieve the best exam results, and then practically tell them they’re stupid because the exams are effortless! Kids aren’t getting dumber. Conversely, they aren’t necessarily getting smarter either. Let me enlighten you to the way the examiners work. They work on a basis of quotas. A child’s performance is calculated relative to his peers’ performances. What this means is, if a child achieves a high mark in an exam, and the majority of his peers also achieve a high mark, the mark boundaries will be pushed up, meaning it is harder to attain the top grades if you have the misfortune of being in a smart year of pupils. Likewise, if a child is in a less-able year, the mark boundaries will fall, thus, it becomes easier to accomplish a better grade. This is a very clever way for the government to ensure a consistent amount of high performing pupils each year. It’s also an efficient way of separating the very bright from the exceptionally intellectual.

Finally, I will discuss parents. I will begin with a fascinating statistic; 89% of kids I spoke to stated that their upbringing has moulded them into the person they are today. Now, when we acknowledge that it’s their opinions that matter, we see that a parent has the most influence over a child’s character. I know it is common practice to point the finger at the parents when a child commits a deplorable act. But, they have to assume the responsibility for their child’s actions, for the evidence proves that it is their nurturing which has had the most authority over the child’s nature. There are several factors pressurizing kids today, but the absence of a parent’s concern or worry for their wellbeing is what a child really takes notice of. I hope all of you listening can relate to this and appreciate what I’m getting at!

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