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Discrimination against British Teenagers Ben Atkins Year 9 Melbourn Village College Are teenagers hard off in Britain? To most of you, this probably seems an obvious question. After all, British teenagers have free education, doting parents, and all the electronic perks of modern life. Indeed, I’m sure there is a viewpoint among our readers that modern teenagers are too well off, and have too much freedom, that teenagers have been allowed to run rampant, leading to the knife crime, bullying, and gang warfare that blights our society today. The entire history of humanity serves to show us that us humans are inherently hostile to that which we don’t understand, even when those things that we don’t understand are from within our own species. But over the last couple of centuries, we have, to most purposes, realised the error of our ways. Racism, sexism, homophobia and indeed ageism against the elderly have all been illegalised, and humanity is much the better for it. However, one form of discrimination is still going on unregulated in our society, and that is discrimination against teenagers. One needs look no further than the cartoons in the Daily Mail to see this. These cartoons show a brutally demonising stereotype of violent drunk teenagers, and go so far as to represent the teenager as some kind pf violent vermin, enemy of every nice, law-abiding person. Were this stereotype applied to any other demographic, it would be illegal, but discrimination against teenagers is not just legal, but goes on with the support of many major MPs. Surely by continuing this stereotype, we are only serving to make teenagers resentful toward those who have such unfair dislike of them. This resent then makes them more likely to become antisocial, fulfilling and aiding the stereotype. A recent YouGov poll of around 2,000 adults expressed their opinions of teenagers; 49% felt that young people were becoming increasingly dangerous, and 43% felt that society needed protection from said ‘dangerous’ youth. Furthermore, many adults felt it appropriate to describe modern teenagers using words such as ‘animal’ and ‘vermin’. A good portion of adults consider modern youth to be vermin. Think seriously about the implications of that for a second. It truly is a disturbing thought. But we need to move on from simple opinion. Opinion is one thing, but it’s when that opinion manifests itself as actual discrimination in everyday life that we really

have a problem. Discrimination against teenagers can be seen everywhere in society, if you only look closely. Teenagers are banned from some restaurants, based on the stereotype of teenagers being incapable of calm, polite behaviour. Recently, the Vue cinema chain has established 18+ only screenings of many major movies, and numerous shops, train stations and similar places have installed Mosquito devices, which are, quite literally, anti-teenager equipment, designed to dispel teenagers, vermin-like. I myself, age 13, was once denied unaccompanied access to a bowling alley. What possible explanation for this can there be besides pure, unadulterated discrimination? It’s all very well to moan about this, and play the victim, but we need to think seriously about how we can fix this problem. Just like with all the discriminations that humanity has fought before, this ageism is based on deeply ingrained stereotypes. Just passing laws against ageism, while a necessary part of the process, won’t target the source of the problem. What is really needed is work to raise awareness of the achievements of young people, through events such as, well, such as this article. Furthermore, while I would hate to sound like I endorse press censorship, I think it could also be a necessary step to take action against press actions that support the stereotypes, thus further ingraining those stereotypes into those who trust the press. Undoubtedly, some would call this censorship, but the bottom line is, if any other group of people were treated by newspapers in this way, it would breach the law.   Why don’t   teenagers deserve the same protection that any other demographic receive? I feel that awareness work is what we really need. The main difficulty with countering the ageism problem is much like the problem that the suffragists faced when campaigning for women’s votes; that the ones who are responsible for the original discrimination are the ones who hold all the power. Only the adults, of whom so many support the current hostility toward teenagers, are able to take the necessary action against that hostility. So please, do what you can to help us. There is only so much that we young people can do on our own. However, with your help, and the help of those around you, we may finally be able to put an end to the war of the generations. A true utopia of equality is within our grasp, we need only reach out for it. melbournmagazine


57 Spring 2009  
57 Spring 2009  

2009 Melbourn Magazine 57