As the post-mortem begins into who’s to blame for the riots, one thing for sure is that the image of young people has once again taken a real battering.
Like you, I’ve heard every proposed solution from military action and harsh sentencing to water cannons to curfews. Just about everyone including parents, teachers, the government and even the police has been criticised in the media blame game.
Our view (evidence based) is that the vast majority of young people are decent and law abiding. They might frustrate us by texting at the dinner table or spending too long on the X Box but most of the young people we work with don’t go out smashing up shops and stealing trainers.
Our work throughout the UK (400,000 responses gathered to date) tells us that 91% of the 14 year olds in our country will NOT get drunk next week, 96% won’t smoke Cannabis and 87% won’t even smoke a cigarette.
Young people (and to a degree some parents and teachers) believe participation in these behaviours to be 3, 4 or even 5 times higher than the reality, which is itself a real problem. Clearly there are some real concerns. We only had to see the images unfold in front of us to know that the damage caused to ordinary businesses in our towns and cities was real. We just believe that they were caused by the minority not the majority.
We heard some of the offenders saying that they got involved because ‘everyone else was doing it’ – once again proof if it were needed that peer influence is of critical importance within our society.
Problems do escalate when peer influences are built on false perceptions - perceptions fuelled by the media and/or exaggerated claims that can be circulated far easier with the advance of social networks.
Rather than admit defeat, we believe this is a reminder that we all need to work harder to prove to younger people that the vast majority of their peers DO make positive choices.
We can show them the truth and give them the voice they surely deserve.
What do you think? Tell us here