Kate Figes: So Princess Beatrice has a dodgy beau, who cares?

A royal takes her boyfriend with a shady past on holiday and there's an outcry. But who are we to point the finger?
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The Independent Online

Last week we also saw Princess Beatrice in the news for taking her boyfriend skiing with her family. So what you might think? Well, he is not just seven years her senior but was also convicted of assault and battery in Massachusetts in 2002 after a brawl that left another boy dead.

Peaches and Pixie Geldof, meanwhile, are regularly put down by their elders in the press for being loud-mouthed new It girls, who do little but flounce around at fashion shows or film premieres. And Charlotte Church may have the voice of an angel but it's the fact that she doesn't get on with her mother and drinks like a skunk that makes the news.

Well, have I missed something here or is this just normal teenage behaviour which also happens to be replicated by a great many grown-ups? We all get grumpy under stress, and teenagers have a lot to cope with, without the emotional resources that come with maturity. José Mourinho never smiles even when he wins, so why should Andy Murray?

And what woman hasn't ever had an unsuitable boyfriend? You can't choose who you fall in love with when you're young and wildly romantic. My first love became a heroin addict who died after we broke up, but his "unsuitability" didn't diminish my feelings for him - if anything, the bad boy image is more attractive, exciting and dangerous. And we all know of adult women who are in highly unsuitable relationships.

For many of us it takes several attempts before you find the right one and even then he turns out to be disappointing. So why do we expect better of a 17-year-old just because she happens to be a royal? And what teenage girl, or woman for that matter, wouldn't want to be seen at a film premiere or a fashion show? Peaches and Pixie are confident and outspoken, which is surely what we want for all our young women. And why do we expect better of Charlotte Church when vast numbers of other young people drink themselves sick?

These young people have done nothing very wrong, or anything that less famous adults don't do all the time. We never seem to hear about all of the good things that young people get up to; nor do we celebrate their achievements. More teenagers are getting better exams results than ever. They can be innovative, imaginative, altruistic and kind, yet all we ever hear about is the binge drinking, eating disorders and under-age sex.

Sure, all teenagers can be selfish, narcissistic, solipsistic, monosyllabic, morose, grumpy, petulant, mouthy and argumentative, but that's usually because they live with a great deal of insecurity amid their immaturity. They're vain and self-absorbed because they need to focus on who they are becoming as they grow up. They're hormonally and emotionally volatile; they feel things more deeply than adults and can swing from great highs to deep depression very quickly. Often when they drink and take drugs, they do so to escape the pressures inherent in growing up and the boredom they feel. But they need to take risks and experiment with danger to test their limits.

Adolescence can be a vibrantly exciting time. It's the only time when young people have a brief window to let rip and enjoy themselves before the responsibilities of adulthood take hold. They're allowed to make mistakes, even big ones. That's how they learn. Teenagers are not adults; they are still children in many ways and they deserve the same respect, privacy and generosity we give to younger children. Without that, why should they respect us? They're not aliens overtaken by peer pressure, drug culture and alcopops. They're young people struggling to grow up.

Teenagers love to be centre-stage, but it is time we laid off them in the press and let them be. If we keep telling Andy Murray that he is grumpy rather than brilliant he has every right to get even grumpier. At last we have a talented tennis champion to be proud of. Let's celebrate that fact.

'The Terrible Teens - What Every Parent Needs to Know' by Kate Figes is published by Penguin at £7.99

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