So it is official then. We have the vilest teenagers in Europe who aspire to Anti Social Behaviour Orders so they can wear them like a badge of honour.

Who says Britain no longer leads the way and has been over-taken by younger, more vibrant, forward-thinking societies?

You can keep Eurovision, pointless football championships, meaningless economic statistics and all the rest of the gobbledygook that supposedly measures how successful we are. Our teenagers are the best at being awful, so there.

Let’s all go out on a binge drinking, drug-fuelled vandalism orgy to celebrate…on our skateboards and wearing hoodies.

As much as I have a tendency towards criticising the yoof of today – particularly the skateboarders – I cannot help but have a great deal of sympathy for them.

After all, isn’t the finger-pointing and moralising they are now being subjected to after publication of two fairly damning studies into today’s teenagers exactly the type of demonising we were all subjected to at their age? Admittedly, each new generation of teenage rebels does appear to push the boundaries a little further. But then so does the amount of criticism they endure.

What everyone, including the teenagers themselves, need to understand is that most of us were rebels once in our lives – or, at least, we thought we were.

Upstanding, law-abiding, council tax paying, Waitrose shopping, slipper-wearing member of society that I am these days, 20 years ago I was a sullen, anti-social, scruffy, useless layabout – or rather I probably was in the eyes of some people unlucky to pass my shuffling, shoe-gazing path.

Each generation of teenagers gets it in the neck from the older members of society who simply don’t understand them and continually shake their heads in disbelief saying: “We were never that bad when we were their age.”

Guess what, in the eyes of someone back then, yes you were.

It is the job of teenagers to bear the brunt of the rest of society’s bitterness, anger and frustration. It has always been that way – or at least since the concept of the “teenage menace” really seemed to take off in the 1950s – and probably always will be unless we see a fairly major shift in popular culture.

Teenagers are worse than those who went before them – the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings and older now pointing the finger. But they are simply following the natural order of things.

Predictably, both these new reports into modern teenage life have provided plenty of salacious headlines and navel-gazing.

But both the Institute for Public Policy Research report (, which identifies our teenagers as the worst in Europe and the Youth Justice Board study (, that supposedly suggests some youths view ASBOs as a badge of honour, offer so much more than lurid and sensational headlines.

For example, the YJB study actually states that “police, local authorities and sentencers must involve youth offending teams (YOTs) every time an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) is considered for children and young people” in order to “save young people from ‘badge of honour’ ASBOs”.  It is actually an informed, thought-provoking report into how we deal with problem teenagers and asks whether current procedures go far enough. More importantly, but less “sexy” in news terms perhaps, it also offers a possible long-term solution.

Equally, the IPPR study is not aimed at merely showing how British teenagers top all the indicators of “bad behaviour” – drugs, drink, violence and promiscuity. It is actually attempting to kick-start a long-overdue debate on the apparent collapse of family and community life in the UK.

Again, this is not necessarily an instant soundbite-friendly angle. But such a debate is clearly vitally important in a society where meanness, arrogance, ignorance and superficiality is lauded and rewarded as entertainment – The Weakest Link, Wife Swap, Big Brother all providing the tip of a very large and destructive iceberg – and respect, common courtesy, tolerance and understanding are viewed as a sign of weakness.

There are always a few bad apples that attempt to spoil it for the rest.

But we cannot let a handful of headline-writers, ratings chasers or rent-a-quote politicians and pundits prevent the type of debate the YJB and IPPR are attempting to stimulate from taking place.


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