The Irish youth are obtaining increasing “face time” in the media over the last few years; however sadly, the majority of this publicity is not due to them being well behaved or contributing members of the community. Instead, they are being highlighted for the polar opposite of how they are expected to behave.
A lot of news you hear related to Irish youth seems to fall under the same key phrase “anti social behavior”. It is fair to say that I’m “playing to the stereotype” and that this article is being used to brand all teenagers with the same name. So to clear this up immediately not all teenagers are involved in anti social behaviour, but the teenagers we hear about are the small numbers who grab the headlines for the wrong reasons. These select few that do cause trouble are constantly in the public eye and as a result, certain impressions of teenagers form in the minds of the people.
When members of the public were asked to describe teenagers, words like “rude”, “nasty” and “misguided” cropped up constantly.
I went on to ask these people if they knew any teenagers personally themselves. All answered “yes”. I then asked if these teenagers that they personally knew were used as the base they set all their opinions of youth on. Many of these people then said no.
There was a general idea amongst most of the people that “the teenagers I personally know are fine; it’s the ones that I don’t know who are causing all the trouble”. Although hypocritical, this comment leads to a rather shocking point: teenagers are hugely stereotyped.
The general point the people made was that the teenagers they didn’t know where the problem. So, armed with this information, I interviewed someone who deals with a lot of teenagers, but at the same time, not know them personally. That person was Mr. Paul Byrne.
Mr. Byrne is a fireman in the Dublin fire brigade and he recalled some encounters he has had with teenagers. Because Mr. Byrne’s profession, he would generally only interact with teens that are in the middle of anti social behavior. One encounter he recalled occurred on Halloween. He told me that while extinguishing an unsupervised bon fire, (this particular fire being in an area that left people feeling uneasy) the youth of this district started verbally abusing him and his colleagues and then went on to throw stones at the fire truck itself. This act led to the fire truck being taken off the road for the rest of the night, therefore putting many lives in danger due to one less truck on the road.
Although this occurred on Halloween, Mr. Byrne said it was not a standalone event. He said “plenty of times we get called out by teenagers who have drank too much. Sometimes stomachs need to be pumped; other times we need to bring them to a hospital and most of the time they don’t want to co-operate”.
Again, this is an example of the wrong type of behavior getting attention. In fact, this whole article is another example of this “bad behavior” getting attention. But what can we do to change this?
Well, we simply need to change society’s view of a teenager and educate teenagers appropriately. Youths need to learn through example.
Teens need to be led, not pushed.