Every generation says how much luckier the current generation is and how things are so much easier now than when they were younger. Admittedly, my grandparents had the First World War and my parents had the Second World War - whereas my generation mainly had to contend with bad haircuts, shoulder- pads and Bonnie Langford.
However, even though this generation has more superficial things than mine ever did – i.e., more than three TV channels, more than one video game and the internet instead of the walk to the library - I think the pressure young people are under is intense.
If anyone in my generation made mistakes – and let’s be honest, we made loads – or if we said something we shouldn’t have, or had bad exam results, or an embarrassing encounter, it would be left to rumours or notes under the desk to pass word on. Social media has changed all that. Now, with one Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat update, the whole world can immediately find out what you have done, and loudly judge you and share your ‘shame’.
Had this been the case when I was younger then my embarrassing dancing to Saturday Night Fever at the age of 15 would have gone viral. (Saying that, there is a YouTube video of me doing my best Travolta impression with my son earlier this year – and I’m secretly quite proud I remembered the moves.)
This generation is also under incredible pressure when it comes to sex. They learn about it from a very early age, and I don’t mean sex education classes in school. By the way, why did we never have sex education in school? The closest we came was making figurines of ourselves with Play Doh. Of course, I never had enough Play Doh to completely finish mine...
I’m referring to the fact that children now have easy access to pornography. They can even look at it on their phones on the bus to school! Now don’t get me wrong, although this is clearly appalling, if I could have done that aged 15 I no doubt would have. It would have been a lot easier than going for a walk with friends, just so that we could visit the abandoned hut in the woods which had four torn pages of a Playboy magazine hidden inside. I still remember those images to this day. Damn those staples!
There is also the pressure to have sex at a younger age. Most of my school friends didn’t lose their virginity until they were at least 18. (Of course that could be because none of us were real lookers.) However, this average age seems to have dropped to 15 or 16. Putting the legality issue to one side, why has this become an essential part of growing up, as though it’s the natural next step? Now, I might be coming across as some kind of prude, or spoilsport, but having teenage children I’m more aware of what’s going on - and therefore more concerned. I’m not saying that previous generations weren’t having sex too, one only needs to look at the 60s as proof of that, but that era seemed much more relaxed and less pressurised than it is now. Although, of course I don’t really remember the 60s, which probably means I was there....
Speaking of sex, like many men, one of my fantasies was to have sex with two women. I’m pleased to say I eventually did. One was in 1987 and the other was in 1991.
Apart from sex, there are other pressures teenagers face, like the pressure to look a certain way. I never had this. My only image concern was how many buttons to open on my large-collared shirt to fully reveal my hairy chest and medallion. By the way, I still have it, although it is now faded and full of cobwebs. I still have the medallion too.
But teenagers, primarily teenage girls, are being told to dress a certain way and have a certain type of figure. They are bombarded with images of ‘celebrities’ and their genetically enhanced bodies. Many of these ‘role models’ are simply famous for being naked, famous for having rich parents, famous for being on a tacky reality show or famous for being married to someone who is famous for being naked or having rich parents or being on a tacky reality show.
We are also bringing children up in an intolerant society, giving them political parties without strong leaders, university fees to pay, offering them unaffordable housing and putting more pressure on them to pass exams. This is all having a negative effect. For example, I recently read that mathematics GCSE results this year are down by 20%. 20%! That’s almost half!
But still, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. We have also given this generation Katie Price, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Pokeman Go. They can thank us for all these whenever they like. No pressure.
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© Bennett Arron August 2016
Bennett thinks life is far more complex for the young these days - do you?