Bernard Trafford: Fat, feeble and feckless? Not the kids I meet

Young  people nowadays!” We’ve all heard it said, with a sigh, generally by people of a certain age and intolerant disposition

Young  people nowadays!” We’ve all heard it said, with a sigh, generally by people of a certain age and intolerant disposition. But, let’s face it: kids today truly are a mess.

Evidence the recent media feeding-frenzy about the catastrophe, the health time-bomb, that’s waiting to happen. Children are fat, feeble and feckless. They’re weak-willed, live on pasties and chips, and are so obese that they’re in imminent danger of heart attack, stroke and early death.

Boys do nothing but play video games, never shifting their oversized buttocks from the couch. Girls are forever on Facebook. All social intercourse is digital. Kids are losing the ability to speak to one another face to face.

Their attention span is now too short to cope with that great board game Monopoly. Our family games took all Sunday afternoon. My wife would engineer an early bankruptcy so she could cook the tea while I endured a few more hours. Now Monopoly has a new 30-minute version; kids can’t deal with anything longer.

A report back in July predicted a school holiday plague of cyber-bullying, a veritable tsunami of offensive teenaged messages flooding the Twittersphere. Blame schools: teachers spend the summer lazing around on the Costa Brava, while parents are nowadays too preoccupied and hopeless to do anything interesting with their own kids. The result is they are left to their own, invariably nefarious, devices.

It makes grim reading. Young people with the attention spans of goldfish are conversely spending countless hours creating internet mayhem while frying their brains and stuffing their faces. Forget the Olympic legacy. Tomorrow’s sport will be played by immobile wobble-bottoms waggling a remote control in front of an enormous interactive screen.

What nonsense! What do newspapers get up to in the silly season? Sure, there’s an element of truth in all the stories I’ve alluded to above, but I don’t accept there’s an all-out crisis.

There are indeed kids who truly are fat, feeble and feckless, and we should worry about them.

But the ones I meet (not only in my work-place, I must stress) are a wonderful bunch. Today’s teenagers are quick-witted, amusing, sharp observers of the nonsenses of adult life and society, compassionate, generous.

And they work far harder than we did in my day.

Whatever your particular view, today should focus a few young minds. A-level results are published. That means both the end-of-school A2-levels which hopefully confirm university places, and also the AS-level, the halfway point to A-level that tells lower sixth form (Year 12) candidates and their teachers how they’re getting on and what sort of university course they should apply for this coming autumn.

That cohort should get off their lardy backsides, then, and do something useful. Sixteen-year-olds can slob around for another week until their GCSE results.

When we see today’s A-level statistics (I write before they come out), some fool will sound off as usual about standards being dumbed down (although politicians are starting to get the message that they give offence when they moan on results day).

I’m in no doubt that the overwhelming majority of 17 and 18-year-olds will get the exam results they deserve.

Those results will reflect in the main enormous dedication and hard work, fascination with the subject and a depth of work going far beyond the mere requirements of the exam.

Along the way these great young people have raised funds for charity, learned teamwork through sport, music and drama, made friendships in school that will last them a lifetime, and had a great time.

Give the kids a break! They’re marvellous, a credit to themselves above all, but also to their parents and to their schools. And to society as a whole.

So if you see a 17 or 18-year-old today, ask how they got on, and congratulate them warmly.

Be nice to a teenager. It’s only once a year!


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer