From ‘tweenage’ mothers to Mods and Rockers, it's all too easy to demonise the young

From the 12-year-old mum to Mods and Rockers, there's always an excuse for alarmists to get on their high horse

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The media have been salivating over Britain’s youngest parents: a 12-year-old mum and 13-year-old dad from North London – not to mention the ‘tween’ girl’s own 27 year-old mother and 29 year-old father.

The latter, in particular, has been pilloried for calling into LBC’s Nick Ferrari phone-in show as follows: “She's only my little girl, whether she's done that or not. There are lots of routes kids this age can take. Lots of kids are on drugs. She brought something beautiful into the world and we're all proud of her.”

As he vowed to support them no matter what, a nation sucked its teeth. The outrage on various phone-in shows I have heard being peppered by sad stories like “my next door neighbour’s daughter had eight abortions as a teen. Eight!”

Britain is on its moral high horse, claiming that the young grandparents either let “it” happen or should have watched  them 24/7 to prevent “it” happening. This is yet another example of Britain’s “moral decay”, and it “didn’t happen in our day”. That’s at least literally correct.

However, there was another story around this weekend that gave the lie to the teeth-suckers: the 50th anniversary of mods and rockers descending on Britain’s southern seaside towns in a battle for supremacy. Brighton, Clacton and Margate were among the sedate venues for pre-arranged fights between rockers on big bikes in their leather jackets and quiffs, and Parka-clad mods on Vespas and other scooters, some of which broke down en route.

There were stabbings and 51 arrests in Margate alone. The BBC reported: “They threw deckchairs around, broke them up to make bonfires, shouted obscenities at each other and at passers-by, jostled holidaymakers and terrified elderly residents.” It could be tomorrow’s Daily Express!

Listening to those same Mods and Rockers in their 60s and 70s, reminiscing, it’s clear many of them came from perfectly “normal” (whatever that means) working-class and middle-class homes. The violence was pre-planned, and sex, away from the family home, was as much a part of the experience. And their parents? They didn’t have the slightest clue about what they were up to, let alone any ability to control it. There wasn’t much remorse either.

I’m sad for that “tween” couple, because at 12 and 13 they have had a major part of their own childhoods stolen away from them by becoming parents. I’m even sadder that there remains a belief that not talking about sex and contraception in schools and homes at a young age will somehow make it all go away in an age when our young are exposed – as preceding generations were not – to sexualised imagery at the touch of a on-screen  icon. It’s more irresponsible especially as – unlike previous generations – contraception is now universally available to those aged 16 and up, at least. All that said, surely it is better that those young grandparents will stand by them than not?

If anyone thinks they can stop teenagers having sex by just “banning” it, or building it up as a great evil, then they haven’t parented teens. Talking, listening and educating is, as always, the answer.

Oh, and those mods and rockers? Three years later many of them became the very hippies most had purported to despise; drugs and free love and all that. Think kindly, dear readers.

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