If you could turn back time, would you? Would you go back to being young and in school again?
It’s tough being a teenager and social media plays an enormous part now in decisions faced every day. The pressures of looking good, wearing the right thing and acting a certain way for the purpose of having content to post on Instagram or Snapchat. As well as remembering the enormous number of on-trend hashtags to include and filters to use on your photos. It sounds exhausting.
Everyone wants to grow up and be an ‘Influencer’ or a ‘YouTuber’. Is it because they believe it’s an easy way to get famous, make money and bag amazing sponsorship deals? Do kids realise that how these ‘celebrities’ are perceived publicly, is a façade of who they are at home, chilling in their pyjamas watching Riverdale? Just like the viewers watching.
Back in the nineties when I was a teenager; growing up I wanted to be a journalist, but I know now I would never have made it. I didn’t have the resilience. My skin wasn’t tough enough back then. All my worries focused on passing my GCSE’s, whether a particular boy liked me or the occasional falling out with a friend. I found it hard being a teenager; I didn’t know who I was, who I wanted to be or whether it was ‘enough’ just to be myself. It’s something I still struggle with even now at forty.
In 2018 a survey was conducted between September 2018 and February 2019 by Ipsos Mori, and questioned 13,664 year 7 to 11 pupils, mostly aged 11 to 15, from 193 schools across England on smoking, drinking and drug use.
17% of pupils drank alcohol at least once a month, with 14% of 15-year olds drinking once a week. This statistic seems surprisingly low to me. It certainly takes me back to that age, huddling on a park bench with my friends and a 2-litre bottle of Scrumpy Jack on a cold Saturday night.
As well as teenage drinking, in 2018, 18% of boys and 16% of girls had taken drugs, with Cannabis being the drug that pupils are most likely to have taken.
I can’t imagine back then having every mistake I ever made under the influence being captured and displayed on Facebook for the world to see. A real time log of bad judgement calls, fashion faux pas and drunken blunders. I have enough memories of those to last a lifetime and thankfully no photographic evidence. No social media reminders that ‘this time last year’ I was acting like a tit!
It’s not just the pressures of alcohol and drugs, there’s the subject of sex. Who’s doing it, who’s not doing it? Who is doing it too much! You’re either frigid or a slut, no in-between. That’s if you’re a girl; for boys the general rule is ‘get as much as you can’. Even though in 2019 UK teenagers are far less likely to have underage sex than a decade ago, it’s very much an ongoing topic in high schools today. Are we talking about it enough with our kids?
There needs to be an open dialogue on all of these subjects, because as you may, or may not remember, it’s a time when a friendly ear can mean the earth.
As a parent, the dangers faced by teenagers, and all children today gives me nightmares. Peer pressure especially can start innocently enough but lead to sinister places. This was what sparked the idea that became Payback, my second novel, and how the innocent decisions of a child can come back to haunt you as an adult.
So, would I go back to being a teenager? Not for all the Twitter followers in the world.