God love ’em! Teenagers! In the last few weeks there have been some notable teenager stories in the news, reminding us all that kids come in all shapes and sizes, all with different strengths and talents.
First we had the (alleged) teenage hacker who rummaged around in Talk Talk’s drawers, causing a media storm and much angst. Teenage hackers have been round since the beginning of the internet, and school-aged computer whizzes have not been able to stop themselves from hacking the CIA, the Pentagon, the NHS, Scotland Yard, Interpol, Sony and Apple to name but a few. A number of them have gone on to be employed by some very impressed tech giants, and some have ended up behind bars. All of them have hopefully highlighted security gaps which the adults, arguably, should have been on top of in the first place.
At the same time, some other teenagers came onto my radar, this time for designing an app to promote healthy living. In light of the massive amount of bad press given over to social media and the effects it has on our kids, a pharma company (Astellas) put out a call to all 14-16 years olds in the UK. The winners were a group of five 15-year-olds from St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, Sussex – Sacha Botting, Dominique Froud, Jack Gumm, Gemma Kelly and Zuzia O’Donoghue – who drew on their own experiences of the pressures of school, friendships, home life and social media to come up with the idea. Essentially the app, which is called Memory Star (already available here), is a ‘virtual memory jar’ – a place where youngsters can keep their memories (photos, messages etc) but not share them. And that is the kicker: whereas so much of their lives is now out there for anyone to see, this is completely private.
O’Donoghue said: “There’s so much pressure to present a very happy image on social media. There’s something very competitive about it. Who can get the most likes? Who has the nicest life? You have this sort of perfect persona that you’re putting forward of yourself, but you don’t always feel like that”.
I for one would not go back to being a teenager for anything. Being one is difficult. Having them is arguably worse, and, while in my day (the 1870s – just kidding) there was a great deal of pressure to be popular, pretty, clever and have the ‘right’ shoes, today those pressures are undoubtedly worse. The burden is two-fold (playground and social media) and the bullies find it easier to be nasty from behind a smart phone.
So let’s hear it for the young ~ and while being in your 50s has its troubles (the everlasting-menopause is pushing my sense of humour to its very limits), the vast majority of teenagers go on to be delightful adults.
Have a good week
Annie Bee x