Youth Culture – The Dark Side

I believe every parent of a child over 13 years of age should read this week’s India Today cover story, and then read it again.

India Today Cover Story

For me there is a really eerie sense of deja vu. I grew up in the UK, well in to my teens as the 1980’s got under way. At the time things were happening within my generation that were little understood amongst our parents. Drug and alcohol use exploded. Along the way i even lost a couple of good friends, dead way before their time. I learned that it’s impossible to tell who will become an addict and who won’t – that there’s a hidden part of every person’s personality that can cause them to swing towards the precipice or safety – the danger is nobody even knows their own hidden part – so it’s like the ultimate game of Russian roulette.

I see all the danger signs here in India now and the same sense of helpless confusion amongst the parent generation. People, until now, have associated the ‘drug addict’ with the derelict laid out on the pavement – it was something happening somewhere else with someone else. However, today, both parents and educators cannot afford to be naive or to shut their minds to the evidence around them.

It’s important to say as well that there’s nothing to be gained by over-reaction either. Dragging our children off for blood tests, employing private detectives to watch where they go and who they’re with are not the answers. We also can’t lock them up, away from their peers, in the belief that we can buy them immunity from danger.

Being now much older and at least a little bit wiser I believe that there are certain strengths that we can build in our children to keep them strong and safe. A child with a strong sense of identity, belief in themselves and clear goals for their future about which they are passionate are most unlikely to succumb to peer pressure to engage in high risk behaviours. These are the kids who will think twice before getting on the ‘slippery slope’ or throwing the dice. They have an inner strength that enables them to say ‘NO’.

As educators we rarely get hard and fast concrete evidence. We chase shadows and ghosts – stories of family drivers who become ‘pushers and dealers’ who acquire the substance of choice for the children they’re entrusted to protect, the suspect places where deals are struck, the ‘trainers’ in gyms who supplement their incomes by supplying ‘highs’ on the side. Again, I say we can’t wrap the children up or shut them away from the world around them. However, we can work with our children as early as possible to build the strength of character that doesn’t need to buckle to peer pressure.

Other things we can do include demanding proper policing, proper detection of dealing and manufacture and related suspect activities. Then, proper and effective action by the courts to make the would-be dealers think twice.

I welcome thoughts and contributions from both parents and educators on what we can do.

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