Give young people a smile, not a scowl – they may surprise you, Emma Richardson column

PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 July 2020

Guest columnist and local author Emma Richardson.

Guest columnist and local author Emma Richardson.


Emma Richardson writes about how people should show encourage more positive behaviour

As lockdown eased recently, we saw hordes of young people descend onto our beaches with ensuing scenes of drunken fighting and disorder.

The debate continues as to how many of those young people were Exmouth locals – personally I suspect not many, that’s not to exonerate the youth of Exmouth entirely from bad behaviour at times but we should be wary of tarring everyone with the same brush.

‘Teenager stays in, does home-school work and jobs around the house without being asked’ said no headline ever. I know plenty of young people in our town who volunteer their time for beach cleans, in charity shops, at animal rescue centres, for sports clubs. I know plenty of young people who work hard at school despite having the odds stacked against them through financial situations or perhaps because they are also the sole carer for a parent at home. I think it’s very easy to demonise our youth, particularly easy for the keyboard warriors.

I believe we need to look at the issue differently. There’s an African proverb that says: ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’. It falls to all of us to take a collective responsibility for young people by setting a positive example. In my 20-plus years in Exmouth, I have encountered more direct rudeness from older people than youngsters, whether that’s being pushed in front of in a queue, being tutted at when my children were small or even verbally abused in a car park.

Perhaps if we all show some empathy for others’ situations – we’ve never been in a lockdown before – we would encourage more positive behaviour all round. Our youth are facing employment instability, uncertainty over exams (and that will be something that stays with this generation for their entire working lives) and a looming recession. So next time you meet a group of young people, give them a smile instead of a scowl – they might surprise you.

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