British parents’ relaxed attitude to teen drinking, drug-using and sex
Four nine-year-old boys have been suspended from their Lancashire primary school after being found in posession of Cannabis – shocking eh? Perhaps not shocking enough. A recent survey of British parents has revealed an increasingly relaxed attitude towards their own children engaging in drinking, drug-taking and underage sex. Parents said that on average they would be happy to allow their children to drink at home from the age of 13, with 10% being ‘fine’ with their little darlings to drink regularly at the age of 16 despite government guidelines recommending that no child under 15 should be allowed to drink alcohol. After drink comes drugs; the survey found that 32% of parents did not mind their child smoking cannabis as a one-off and 8% were comfortable with them smoking the drug regularly. Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, suggested that these changes in parenting are the result of a change in society, “As far as parents are concerned, sex, alcohol and even drugs are no longer no-go areas for their children. Families have become surprisingly open-minded about allowing their children to experiment and find their own way in life.” Dig a little further though and this research opens a can of worms – what is it that drives us as Brits to become so accepting of what other countries would find shocking, dangerous and irresponsible?
I have vague recollections of my Sunday dinner being accompanied with a glass of white wine mixed with lemonade (so vague that I must have been under 10) and watching my sisters being all grown up (still underage) and being allowed to have real wine with their meal. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion. Fastforward a few years and whilst my sisters were studying hard and staying in doing their homework, I was sneaking out to parties, staying over at friends’ houses and drinking whatever we could get our mits on. When I was found out I was given a good talking to and for the most part, I learned my lesson. What happened after that was interesting. At 16 or 17, I was allowed by my previously very strict parents to go out every Thursday to a (Godawful) Rock Night, where not only did I get battered and bruised, but pretty bladdered too. I remember my sisters making a fuss that I was allowed to go out at an age where they were not – but rather than that being a reflection on a change in parenting or relaxation of attitudes towards such things, it was down to personality; me, the rebel, versus them, the goody-two-shoes.
What we tend to do all too often now (especially in the media) is lump all young people into one category, and these findings veer towards doing the same to British parents. It is easier to look at the research and say that British parenting is slack and that is to blame for a generation of binge-drinking no-hopers than it is to explore possible reasons behind this air of acceptance without being so simplistic in our approach.
On reading the statistics about parents who don’t object to their children drinking regularly (I’m leaving out the part about drinking at home, as that to me, in a controlled environment, is acceptable) or experimenting with drugs, my reaction was to immediately consider different reasons as to why these parents are to some extent taking a back seat and allowing their children to learn from their mistakes. I came up with the following:
- The ones who sadly don’t seem to care (it happens)
- The ones who actually trust their teens to drink responsibly and act responsibly, allowing them the freedom to learn for themselves (rare I would guess)
- The ones who know that their rebellious teens will do what they want anyway, why fight it? (common, probably)
Worryingly, the first and last appear to make up the majority, suggesting therefore that the majority of teenagers are able to dictate what they can do, where they can go and how they will act. I was a bit of a wild child but I always bent the rules rather than broke them or disregarded them completely. My time in secondary school coincided with the rise of ’scallies’ or ‘chavs’, and with that a notable change in what was accepted and scarily, often expected of our age group. Teenage pregnancies were soaring, teens were being expelled for dealing drugs and underage drinking was just something that we did. Although some parents may be to blame for the erratic behaviour of our teenage population, I would strongly suggest that rather than blame the parents, we should support them in bringing up a generation who think that only their rules apply – and their rules are a) that there are no rules or b) that rules are made to be broken.Tagged in: alcohol, britain, drugs, parenting, sex, society
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