“Do you wish you were a teenager growing up now instead of in the 80’s?” This was a question my fifteen year old daughter asked me recently and I found myself answering “No!” without a moment’s hesitation, as despite the technological advances that in many ways have made our lives easier, in so many other ways I think life as a teenager was better 30 years ago.
Today’s teenagers cannot make mistakes in the same way that we used to, no longer are they able to wake up after a party and cringe at the events of the night before in the privacy of their own bedroom. Now they are likely to wake up to every embarrassing detail being shared on Twitter and Facebook for all to see and comment on.
It is little wonder that the Pastoral Care Officer at my daughter’s school now spends 90% of her time dealing with issues arising from social media - all it takes is an unflattering photograph or video to be posted and before you know it some poor unsuspecting girl is being branded ‘ugly’ (or worse) for all to see. As parents we feel completely unprepared for handling these kind of situations, in our day it might have been a few nasty comments behind your back but now the humiliation (even by total strangers) is all so public and children growing up today need to be incredibly strong to rise above it.
The result of this is that teenagers may feel that they have to be ‘on their guard’ when they start socialising which is something that we never had to worry about and in some ways is very sad. I am glad that I was able to grow up at my own pace, make mistakes and learn from them, knowing that the only person who would really know about my past was me (or those I chose to tell).
“So what else was better about growing up in the 80’s?” my daughter asked me. Well the job market for a start. I left school with ten O’ levels and two A’ levels and decided I wanted to work in a bank. I applied to Barclays, Natwest, Lloyds and Midland bank and was offered jobs at all of them, it was simply a case of deciding which one I liked the best. Even my friends who went to Uni came out with no debt and the promise of a good job at the end of their degree.
Now the competition is so fierce, even to get onto a good degree course, that the best Universities are looking at GCSE results and wanting students who are high achievers in all areas of life. The pressure to make the right choices, right from Year 9 when you are choosing which GCSE’s to study, is intense as it could affect your whole future in a way which we never had to worry about thirty years ago.
Even if you can get a decent job after completing your degree (rather than ending up working in a call centre or on a supermarket checkout), what are the chances of you ever being able to afford to get on the property ladder? We had to save hard for a year or so in our early twenties to be able to buy our first flat (it cost us £46,000 and we needed a £2300 deposit) but I never remember feeling concerned that it was something we couldn’t easily achieve.
Recently my nephew was able to buy his first home after working and living at home with his parents for many years, his flat cost £183,000 and he needed to save a £9150 deposit. For many young graduates coming out of University with thousands of pounds worth of debt and little prospect of walking into a well-paid job, the likelihood is that they will either be living with their parents or renting for a very long time.
So whilst today’s teenagers can download music instantly (rather than waiting with the cassette player on record on a Sunday night), view photographs instantly (rather than waiting weeks for their films to be developed at Borehamwood) and have information at their fingertips online (at the expense of learning to conduct research properly using a book), I would far rather have grown up in the 80’s as I think our generation had the kind of start in life which has given us the skills and work ethic to go out into the world of business and be high achievers .