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Jack Collins writes about life through a teenager’s eyes

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“We are the youth of today.” This is the clarion call from Amy MacDonald’s song ‘Youth of Today‘. However, to our elders, this generation is known only for its street, gang and knife culture.

Anyone under the age of twenty, dressed in a hooded jumper or jacket is seen as a young hoodlum, it would seem that older generations think we are all the same, knife-wielding hooded robbers.

The facts, figures and unremitting media reporting of stabbings and shootings in the capital only serve to emphasise this mindset. In London alone there have been 21 fatal stabbings of people under 21 over the past nine months. It’s obvious to all that this is too many and that there is a problem with knife crime. However, not everyone under 21 carries a knife, in fact it is a small minority that do. The kids on the streets are the ones that people see and therefore believe that it is them who embody my generation, they are not a fair representation.

What about the kids who love music and would rather be at gigs or playing music themselves than be out on the streets? What about the kids who love sport and who would rather be watching or participating in their chosen field? What about the kids who are learning a specialised skill such as working out how to program and build a computer or drawing or learning how to cook?

This is where the true gems of our generation lie - ready to shine, when the time comes. This is where the next David Beckham will be, the next Paul McCartney, Bill Gates, Jamie Oliver or even Picasso. Today’s generalisations are horrifically unrepresentative and totally unjustified.

Respect is another issue that divides the generations. To gain respect from anyone it must be shown to them. For example last week I went into a shop to get some milk and bread and I took one earphone out when I got to the checkout I was spoken to. The lady at the checkout looked at me with distain and, when I put my hand out to receive my change, she dropped it on the counter instead of putting it in my hand. Actions like this are totally unnecessary. How does she expect teenagers to respect her when she treats teenagers like that?

Clearly the youth of today should alter aspects of our attitudes if we are to move on as a society, but the attitudes of older generations must change too. They must show respect to the youth if they expect respect in return and must realise that generalisations are unfair.

When this happens, my generation will be able to stand up and say with pride - “We are the youth of today.”

Jack Collins

September 10, 2008