For those who do not wish to continue in full time education, one of the most difficult issues facing today’s adolescents is unemployment. In the current economic climate, jobs are few and far between, especially for those who have limited experience and qualifications. The Government is currently encouraging young people to learn trades such as plumbing or joining whilst also urging employers to offer apprenticeships to young adults. This gives young people a goal to aim for and can be instrumental in building self-esteem and ambition.
Drugs, Underage Drinking and Gang Culture
Peer pressure is often cited by young people as the principal reason they choose to join a gang or get involved in underage drinking or taking drugs. Gang culture is rife in Britain’s big cities with high profile cases of knife and gun crime appearing in the media almost every week. For those children who do not enjoy a happy home-life, gangs can provide an artificial family unit and create a sense of belonging for impressionable and vulnerable individuals. The status of being in a gang gives youths kudos and street credibility and replaces the feeling traditionally achieved by professional or social progression.
Media output such as films and television series as well as computer games often come under fire for glamorising gang culture and violent behaviour and several studies have confirmed a link between exposure to material of this type and anti-social behaviour; these films and games are popular with young people and it is difficult to prevent access to them due to the proliferation of DVD piracy and the ability to access almost anything you want to on the internet. Drugs and drinking can also offer a different way of life and although severely detrimental in the long-term, can offer a form of escapism in the short-term for those who are struggling in their own lives. Those who are not properly educated in terms of the risks associated with drinking and drug-taking are not aware of the dangers and implications of their actions and will therefore be more inclined to practice such activities.
Keeping Young People off Drugs and off the Streets
For those who choose to leave school and then cannot find work, there is a void left to fill and a lack of routine can often result in increased crime, deprivation and addiction. Numerous studies link boredom amongst youths to a higher level of street and gang crime as well as issues such as carrying weapons and taking drugs. Charity, Talk to Frank has recently launched a high-profile television advertising campaign raising awareness of the dangers associated with drug taking and several other charitable organisations offer support for addictions, as well as National Health Service initiatives.
The old-fashioned system of youth clubs is now almost extinct and with activities such as going to the cinema or going bowling expensive options, teenagers are left wondering what to do with their time. The National Youth Agency aims to change this with the establishment of several programmes tackling issues such as unemployment and anti-social behaviour. Local schemes focused on the worst-affected estates also offer centres for youths to gather as an alternative to hanging around on the streets. The DCSF’s Targeted Youth Support programme aims to identify and support vulnerable young people by offering help and guidance with employment and education, making services more accessible and encouraging active participation in community life.