Young people are struggling, but we need more than a nod from Government to acknowledge it

From pornography to skipping meals, too many children don't know where to turn when they need help and advice

Related Topics

Last week, David Cameron acknowledged that the culture of so-called 'sexting' and access to pornography among young people in Britain was problematic and needed to be addressed within a school environment. He concluded the statement, however, by saying that his comments weren't designed to 'open Pandora's box'.

I'm not entirely sure if this is a Coalition-specific issue, or whether politicians have always done this and I'm only just noticing, but there does seem to be a trend at present for appeasing voters by giving a brief nod of an acknowledgment of the challenges they face whilst doing bugger-all about it, in practical terms.

Unfortunately, as the study released today by mental health charity YoungMinds illustrated, while the government takes this tack and buries its head in the sand over the issues teenagers struggle with, our youth will bear potentially devastating consequences. Not only will they suffer mentally and emotionally, the rippling impact will affect their ability to reach their potential academically or to have the confidence to seek the kinds of jobs they are capable of and deserve, which in turn has consequences for the economy.

YoungMinds' study reveals half of 11 to 14 year olds in the UK are watching online pornography, with 4 in 10 telling us it has damaged their ability to form social relationships outside the web. Meanwhile, half of children and young adults are being bullied, 4 in 10 skip meals because of weight worries and a third don't know where to turn for help. This means either they are unaware of the facilities available to them or they aren't there in the first place.

As someone who regularly works in schools, I never cease to be amazed by the proportion of your average teacher's day that is spent addressing the pastoral challenges outlined above. This is in part owing to the increasing amount of pressure being put on school students, both by a target-driven, 'exam-factory' style education system and partly to the omnipresence of the internet, which exposes them to a constant barrage of stimulae, inappropriate content and the judgment of their peers. In this generation, teenagers who worry about being 'normal' now take to social networking sites to ask for validation, often being told they are fat, ugly, worthless and should kill themselves by trolls who get their jollies by inspiring suicidal thoughts in vulnerable people.

Whilst budgets for school counsellors and nurses in the state sector have been slashed, the burden falls upon usually unqualified teachers and parents to deal with the complicated consequences of our toxic culture, which include rising prevalence of eating disorders, self-harm and depression amongst the young.

The guidelines for sex education, which could provide a much-needed opportunity to discuss pornography and 'sexting', have not been updated for the past 50 years. State budgets for Personal, Health and Social Education are virtually non-existent. And in the meantime our Prime Minister is trying to keep the lid on 'Pandora's box' presumably because it's difficult, taboo and potentially embarrassing.

Ultimately, however unpalatable it might be to an obsessively cut-making government, what schools need is cash. Only a budget to provide resources which will give young people the resilience to navigate the world we have created for them will even begin to tackle this Goliath of an issue.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice