Gina Davidson: Give our teens a little respect

Teenage lottery winner Jane Park has offered to fund cancer sufferer Leon Rendle's dream final trip to Florida. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Teenage lottery winner Jane Park has offered to fund cancer sufferer Leon Rendle's dream final trip to Florida. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THREE teenage girls pack their bags and head off to Syria while across Scotland male and female teens stand to be elected to the Youth Parliament.

Three teen boys are caught on their way to join Isis while a teenage lottery millionaire in Edinburgh offers to help the family of a cancer-stricken boy who wants a holiday in Florida before time runs out.

And all this when a new book by neuroscientist Dr Frances Jensen proves what all parents know instinctively – that teenage brains are wired differently to those of young children and adults.

The teenage years are perhaps the most difficult any of us have to experience and, if the decision by those young people to leave Britain and head off to join a blood-thirsty cult is anything to go by, they are getting harder.

I was a teen in the 1980s when my head was full of Wham lyrics and which colour of Benetton jumper I’d choose if I had the money; running the gauntlet of local bullies who hated my “posh” school uniform and railing against being forced to peel potatoes and take the dog for walks; hating my spots and worrying about whether I would die because of nuclear war or Aids. Then there were boys and the exams.

Halcyon days compared with what teens experience now. I am grateful that I was a teen when austerity wasn’t an everyday word and the drive to university – and therefore a comfortable life – wasn’t so all-
consuming. I’m grateful I didn’t have to question whether or not I “belonged” to the society around me. I’m especially grateful that my teens happened without the constant intrusion of social media.

These days teenagers need to have the latest in technology, be it a smartphone or an iPad. They are signed up to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, their every move is photographed and then picked apart by so-called friends and that’s before you get to the possibility of their being groomed by paedophiles. The ability of parents to monitor this nonsense and what they are looking at online is also growing increasingly difficult.

Is it any wonder they feel under pressure to look and act certain ways – particularly sexually – and are susceptible to mental health problems? Statistics show that three children in every classroom in the UK have a diagnosable mental health disorder, one in five show signs of an eating disorder, one in 12 deliberately harm themselves and that nearly 80,000 suffer from severe depression.

Teenagers need help. They always have when it comes to negotiating puberty and thinking of their futures, but more than ever they need adult help to get through the teenage years with their mental health intact. What they don’t need is to be written off as just bigger toddlers – over-emotional with bizarre sleeping patterns and behaviour bordering on tantrums – even if that’s how it they act.

They are struggling with life and need direction and to be treated with calm and reason.

Of course for some – perhaps those who feel confident enough to stand for election to the Scottish Youth Parliament or who like Jane Park, the lottery winner, seem to have more than their fair share of common sense and compassion – the teenage years are not all bad. But for the vast majority there are pitfalls round every corner.

Perhaps we all should read Dr Jensen’s book and accept they don’t have the – here comes the science bit – “frontal lobe development” needed for impulse control to cope with all the new hormones buzzing round their bodies and cut them some slack.

And remember to praise them when they do switch off the Xbox and join in conversation at the dinner table.

Festival switch is smart move

MARK Adams, the artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is apparently considering switching the event’s annual dates to once more coincide with the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe.

What could be more commonsensical? For long enough the Film Festival attracted major stars to its red carpets because they knew they were coming to the city at a time when the eyes of the arts world – and more – were on it.

While the EIFF might have wanted to stand alone and prove its own worth, it surely makes much more sense to shine in the bigger spotlight created by the other festivals. Adams should do it.

Wiggo avoids route of all evil

THE news that the Tour of Britain has agreed to make Edinburgh one of its stages this year is tremendously exciting. Seeing top athletes like Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, pictured, tear up the city’s streets – swooshing past the crowds in a matter of seconds – will be thrilling and could inspire yet more to get on their bikes.

Thankfully the route doesn’t involve that tricky Haymarket tram line, bus lane and taxi way junction.

City sees the light over dim dangers

AFTER one too many stumbles on the landing in our house courtesy of abandoned toys and an eco-lightbulb, I’m not surprised that street lights powered – that might be too strong a word – by similar energy-efficient bulbs are to be made brighter.

It’s good to hear that there are one or two bright sparks who realise the need to respond to taxpayers’ demands for safe streets.

OPEN AND SHUT CASE

SEX sells is an advertising mantra but for uPVC double glazed windows from 1st Choice Living? It’s “Fifty Shades of Windows” ad is not only gratuitous but fails the funny test.