Hello and welcome to The Teens' Speech blog. A place dedicated to discussing issues of significance to young people in particular and the nation as a whole.
The Teens' Speech


On Christmas Day this year, teenage Britain delivered its own message to the nation. Find out more


Meet Hatti. Since joining YouTube in March 2007, her YouTube channel has enlisted 3,154 subscribers and received nearly 58,000 channel views. She is also supporting The Teens' Speech.

In a short and sweet video clip, Hatti talks with some feeling about the influence the internet has had on her relationships - both friends and family.

For example, the idea of connecting with people online and forming meaningful relationships with them is completely natural to her. In fact, she met her current boyfriend through the medium.

According to research published in October, Hatti is part of a new culture of technology users who are living 'hybrid lives'; communicating and networking in a more advanced way than previous generations. They can't live without the internet - its a place where they feel most comfortable. This is actually borne out by some of the relaxed and open honesty exhibited in the videos posted to our YouTube Teens' Speech channel.

When asked to comment on the research, the Government Advisor on Children and Technology, Professor Tanya Byron, said "...it's essential the adults and organisations that provide support to this age group...offer services that are easily accessible through the internet."

Hatti agrees. In her clip, she says that if she needed advice she would first go to her friends, then Google and as a last resort, her parents.

And speaking of Google, it was Eric Schmidt, its chief executive, who recently put these digital natives into a wider economic context.

When asked what he thought the web would look like in five years, he said, "Talk to a teenager about how they consume media and remember in five years they'll be your employee."

So, it seems that future generations will more technically sophisticated than ever before. I guess it remains to be seen how quickly the rest of us adapt to their needs.

What it feels like for a girl

This week on The Teens' Speech, we're talking about relationships. A subject that might initially conjure sweet reminiscences of first kisses and bittersweet pangs of romantic yearning, but upon closer scrutiny, reveals an altogether darker, more complex issue.

Research published in September 2009 revealed a third of teenage girls in a relationship suffer unwanted sexual acts and a quarter physical violence.

And according to a study of 14- to 21-year-olds by the women's rights group Engender, one in three girls and one in two boys thought there were circumstances in which it could be acceptable to hit a woman or force her to have sex.

Professor David Berridge, Professor of Child and Family Welfare at Bristol University, recently commented: "The high rate and harmful impact of violence in teenagers' intimate relationships, especially for girls, is appalling. It was shocking to find that exploitation and violence in relationships starts so young. This is a serious issue that must be given higher priority by policy makers and professionals."

Too right, mate. It definitely needs looking at. But, the unanswered question that overshadows this whole problem is 'why?'.

Why do young boys think that violence is an acceptable means to getting what they want? Who told them it was ok? Perhaps, more pertinently, who told them it wasn't?

A study by the Department for Children, Schools and Families' in 2006 found three-quarters of 11-to- 14-year-olds wished it was easier to talk to their parents about sex. But, more than half of parents (55%) held back from talking about sex, the survey suggests, because of embarrassment about how to start.

Is it really possible that a personal sense of embarrassment in talking about sex is contributing to the suffering of young girls? Do our closest interpersonal relationships really have a direct effect on the overall well-being of the nation?

We can't be expected to take responsibility for the welfare of all children - can we?

What happened to reading, writing and arithmetic?

Violence in the classroom

The Government intends to introduce mandatory classroom instruction in gender equality and violence against women and girls.

The classes in preventing violence in relationships will be compulsory for children aged five to 15 within 18 months and will be launched as a part of an official campaign to tackle violence against women and girls.

The campaign will target intimate teenage violence following recent research which showed that a quarter of teenage girls suffer physical violence such as being slapped, punched or beaten by their boyfriends, and a third of those in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act.

Is school the right place for this kind of instruction? We already know that our children - and their teachers - are feeling stressed and depressed enough as it is; so is this a subject too far? Do teachers have the right kind of expertise to deal with this kind of sensitive area? Should we be thinking of empowering them to do so? And what about resources - where is the money to fund this going to come from?

Government figures show that in the 2006/07 academic year there were 3,500 temporary exclusions and 140 permanent exclusions from schools in England for sexual misconduct, including incidents such as groping, using sexually insulting nicknames, daubing obscene graffiti and serious sexual attacks.

Is, then, school precisely the place where this kind of discussion needs to take place - to be told, among your peers, that sexual and physical violence toward women is totally unacceptable?

I mean, if not in school, then where?

We care a lot

On 11 August, 2007, Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, were attacked by a gang of teenagers in a local park. The apparent motive was that Sophie and Robert - both goths - dressed differently.

When he sentenced the gang, the judge, Anthony Russell QC, said: "This was a hate crime against completely harmless people who were targeted because their appearance was different."

Sophie Lancaster did not die because of her race, religion or sexuality. She died because she was a goth.

Lancaster's mum, Sylvia, a youth worker, has used the contributions from well-wishers to set up a special fund known as 'S.O.P.H.I.E' standing for 'Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere' aiming to "provide an appropriate memorial; a lasting legacy to raise awareness of the injustice perpetrated against Sophie Lancaster and to work towards a more tolerant, less violent society."

Lancaster's mother said: "it will also help fund group sessions with young people to teach them about alternative cultures and to respect everyone."

It's incredible that Instead of retreating into themselves and sinking into all-consuming grief, parents like Sylvia Lancaster and Neville and Doreen Lawrence are able to transform their sadness into well organised, focussed and effective campaigns for a just and tolerant society.

The internet helps, of course. Its immediacy, cost-effectiveness, reach and popularity among young people means that campaigns like S.O.P.H.I.E can gain momentum very quickly.

I guess the real challenge is in making an impact on society as a whole.

Anyway, watch this short film about Sophie called 'The Dark Angel' by Fursy Teyssier featuring music by Portishead. It will move you.