One of the few constants in this world is that older generations will always wring their hands about the youth of the day, be it for their ignorance, rudeness or excesses. The latest news to worry anyone over the age of 30 is a study carried out by the energy company npower, which polled a group of children about what they can and cannot do.
The research discovered, among other things, that 45 per cent of them could not tie their own (or, presumably, anyone else's) shoelaces and 65 per cent did not know how to make a cup of tea.
Some of these deficiencies could be cause for concern, such as the fact that more than a third of those questioned "didn't care" about the environment, while around half said that was all right because "in the future we'll be able to live in space".
Yes, it's easy to wonder whether to laugh or cry, but it seems questionable whether the quiz is particularly fair. I don't remember many in my primary school who were able to read a map or build a camp fire at five or six (a sizeable chunk of those polled), while some of the skills look like the sort that you acquire in your teens.
The other way to look at it is that young people are making efficiencies.
We are often reminded that not only are today's children overwhelmed with information, but that childhood is becoming increasingly truncated, so why should they learn skills that are of questionable value anyway?
So 72 per cent can't make papier mâché. Who cares? It always produces the ugliest crafts at school anyway. And while being able to recognise three different types of butterfly might have been a pre-war badge of honour (now 91 per cent of kids cannot), for today's youth, the ability to log on to the internet (58 per cent can) is surely far more important.
And technophobic parents across the land should be grateful that two thirds of their little darlings are there to help them work the DVD player.
Surely the big thing to worry about on the list was that only 31 per cent could send a text message – now without that ability, how will they possibly survive in the modern world?
CAN AND CAN'T DOS OF MODERN YOUNGSTERS
Children aged 5-13
Top five cans:
Work a DVD player 67%
Log on to the internet 58%
Play computer games on games console 50%
Make a phone call 46%
Use a handheld games console 45%
Top five can't do's
Recognise three types of butterfly 91%
Repair a puncture 87%
Tie a reef knot 83%
Read a map 81%
Build a campfire/Put up a tent 78%