Desensitized Youth – So how did that happen?

Well it is not really rocket science is it. The media, entertainment, fashion, sport and fast food industries of course!

Back in the day I remember being coaxed into buying a milky bar by a little bespectacled boy wearing a cowby outfit. He used to shout “the milky bars are on us” – This was misleading advertising of course as my gran used to have to pay for them!

Fast forward a few years to when I used to creep into the Crown Tavern on the Albert Embankment SE11 to play the space invader machine when I was still only 14. ten pence in the slot and away I would go off into a world of my own. Saving the galaxy from a load of little green men who were marching down the screen in single file trying to shoot me before I shot them – Ducking in and out behind the rock shape thing that gave me sanctuary – I can still remember the adrenalin rush when I reached a new level and the feeling of frustration when I narrowly failed to beat my best score before lost my final life.

when you look back at our youth we always allow ourself a little leeway for nostalgia of course – Things always seem to have been rosier in the garden when we were kids… Well the thing is.. They were!

The Milky bar kid got elbowed aside by Ronald Macdonald a long time ago and the little green men have been replaced by real life human looking avitars that kids are encouraged to stab, shoot and run over in some cases (AKA Grand Theft Auto) – All in the name of entertainment of course. The marketing industry has been eating away at the “generation NOW” consumer market for a long time – Kids are made to feel second class citizens in the school playground these days if their trainers do not have 3 stripes or a giant tick (swoosh!) on them.

We live in a different age. An age where greed is seen to be good and materialism is driven by the media. Four page pull out supplements telling young people all about the latest overnight celebrities uncovered by the producers of BIG BROTHER and rain forests wiped out by the X Factor phenomenon with the amount of tabloid coverage. Ever seen the statistics for what generation is most widely phoning in their votes to help pay for Simon Cowells next private jet or Florida mansion? Why its the youth market of course.

Mobile phones.. Wow can you imagine what the Milky Bar kid would have made of mobile phones – Anyone know a young person who has not got one? Oh and the people they put on Big Brother and the X Factor – Can you believe how many of them end up having skeletons in the closet? ironic acts of fate or cynical exploitation to keep the ratings up and the tabloid coverage thick and lurid ? You choose.

Get rich quick – oh and yes of course the Apprentice with Sir Alan Sugar. Stab everyone in the back and have the scruples of an alley cat – Come out on top and you can be the next big success story – What message does this kind of programme give out?

Then there is Premier League football – The kids must have the shirt, the coloured boots and Sky TV subscription – Their idols.. The top players.. Role models?

In summary I think that times have changed very dramatically and young people have been targetted at younger and younger ages by the media and marketing companies… the innocence has been stripped away from youth and it is the adult world that are responsible.

Look at the fashion industry and the way it targets young girls. The fast food industry with its special offers and ever bigger burgers. The music industry with its download must have new releases and ring tones and now of course the new phenomenon of social media. Get the kids all into one place and then attack them with marketing messages and graphic images from every direction – Have you seen the branding on facebook or BEBO recently? – Look at youth culture programming now like SKINS and HOLLYOAKES – If a kid is not having sex reguarly by 16, doing drugs and drinking alcopops then it seems they are not normal according to the tone of these kinds of programme. Then there are all the new lifestyle mags that target girls but position boys with “attitude” as being cool – Has anyone been noticing that teenage girls reguarly put people like Colleen Rooney down as their perfect role model. I am not knocking Colleen she seems a really nice girl with some very good attributes. Lets be clear though the career choice she took after leaving school with no qualifications and no job is not one we should be suggesting ANY young girl takes let along be allowing her to become an iconic role model. Ironic in the extreme (and if you are wearing your brand colleen perfume right at the moment I am sure it is very nice so please dont think I am being critical of the way you smell! lol)

Anyway before I go off into a complete rant – Simply blaming bad parenting for the difference in attitude we see in young people today is not going to solve anything…… materialism driven through the media is at the heart of so much that has gone wrong… The must have and must have quick culture that sees yesterdays latest mobile phone redundant by tomorrow…. We need to think about how this can be adressed.. If indeed it can be.. The horse has bolted and the barn door is wide open!

Let us never forget that the vast majority of young people turn out well no matter what bad influences might lay in wait for them….. If we are going to find solutions for the feral minority that wreak havoc in some communities then we need first to recognise that things have changed and part of that change may well be that the feral youth are a product of our own making…… be the change you want to be… How poignant!

Now.. where did I leave that Milky Bar?

G x


5 thoughts on “Desensitized Youth – So how did that happen?

  1. This isn’t a rant Gary. It’s the sad truth of today.

    I totally agree with your conclusion that “materialism driven through the media is at the heart of so much that has gone wrong…” Whatever happened to ‘Deferred or delayed gratification’? I think it was an advert for Guinness that first told me ‘Good Things Come to Those Who Wait’ (Just to clarify, I don’t drink Guinness 🙂 To put it bluntly, many people young and old want, ‘the fruit before they’ve even planted the tree’. I believe this constant: rush for SUCCESS, rush for FAME, rush for THE GOOD LIFE, rush for HAVING KIDS, rush for ALMOST EVERYTHING, is whats eroding the minds of our youth.

    However I think this shift in the attitude of the youth has been caused by a much wider issue of rampant consumerism and the commodification of EVERYTHING! In fact the whole capitalist model that almost all countries adhere to, demands the continued growth of profits and explorations into new areas of human life that can be transformed into commercial ventures. How can families, governments and individual youngsters put-up a fight with this? I’ve had to neglect allot of things in society to be truly ‘free’ (If there is such a thing.) I realized from a young age that not every ‘want’ is a ‘need’ and NEVER to get used to luxury living in all it’s forms.

    We all need to slow down and take time to look-up and look-beyond our day-to-day activities to understand whats really going on and happening right above our heads. We can only break this cycle when we all realize like Marvin Gaye said “What’s going on”.

    • Alex – Thank you for the candour of your comments. After almost 3 years of struggle to develop the Spirit of London Awards (SOLA) as a living breathing brand of real significance I feel that this Year we can consolidate its goals and objectives to build a network of empowered youth across the City. Your words to close the opening event still ring clear – It would be good to get you together with the youth management team that is forming in advance of this years event. The plan if we can do it without sustainable support fudning wise is to stage the event at the Royal Albert Hall. Youth Empowerment hangs on the same key chain as education and social mobility is the gateway to breaking free of the chains of the post code existence.

      I will email you shortly to try and find a date when your own great ambitions which we support 100% allow you a few free hours.


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