Wednesday, March 14, 2007

At last Oona King has turned the table on the debate about teenagers and revealed just how many of them feel unsafe when they go out. Check out the charity 4children and its Make Space review - yes, it has discovered what many parents of teenagers live with daily: society is letting teenagers down because they don't have safe places to go and they don't feel protected by adults.

When police and politicians dismiss young people with such distancing terminology as 'youth' or 'hoodie' or 'vandal', when all they talk about in relation to young people is anti-social behaviour or ASBOs, can we even hope that teenagers are granted the respect they deserve? Can we even hope that these adults, who should be looking out for children (yes, many teenagers are still children) will be taken to task for their inexcusable neglect?

Teenagers feel vulnerable. Boys, in particular, live in constant fear of gangs and gang attack. Yes, even in not very big cities outside London, Manchester, Glasgow......Gangs that seemingly without hindrance can enter their school grounds, hang around outside school gates, target particular kids, take over local shopping centres and police unable to distinquish between those who are causing the trouble and those at risk. Why, I wonder? Is it anything to do with the fact that they're never out of a car? That they don't seem to walk anywhere or know anyone anymore?

So teenagers risk hanging out in parks, learning the hard way that gangs are rampaging round the city and come home with hair-raising stories about being chased, beaten up, having to hide in gardens, or with stories about being randomly stopped and searched by police.

There isn't a single place in this city where they can drop in at times convenient to THEM, where they'll feel safe, valued and welcome. Thanks Oona King and 4children for taking the time to talk to teenagers.