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UK: Survey reveals what young people think about the riots

Summary:

Almost half (45 per cent) of informants felt the media's coverage of young people was unfair. One commented “The media are only interested in showing and talking about negativity against the youth". Another said “I saw a headline which said 'teenagers rob local shop'. It’s stupid because you wouldn’t say 'adults rob local shop'!”, “It was not just youth who were involved in rioting and looting, but parents and adults as well. Unfortunately 95 per cent of news reports failed to label the other age groups involved”.

 

[17 August 2011] - Over 500 young people tell our 99% Campaign partner, Jack Petchey Foundation, what they think about the rioting. 

Half of the young people think that the main reason for the recent rioting across the country was simply ‘mindless vandalism’ as indicated by a snapshot survey of over 500 young people undertaken by the Jack Petchey Foundation. Others cited boredom (13.5 per cent), lack of provision and government interest in young people (13.2 per cent) lack of morals (10.6 per cent) the gap between rich and poor (6.6 per cent) and youth unemployment (6 per cent). Of the 517 respondents 80 per cent completely condemned the violence outright and 95 per cent said they would not take part if asked to do so.

A number of young respondents pointed to the lack of morality in society generally, summed up by this young man “its bad examples set by parents and the ruling elites.  MPs' expenses, banker’s greed, bailout and continued bonuses, Murdochgate and cosy deals with media, police and government...”

The Jack Petchey Foundation believes it is particularly important to seek the views of young people as our society seeks to understand the causes.  Many are angry that ‘young people’ have been blamed. Almost half (45 per cent) felt the coverage of young people was unfair. One commented “The media are only interested in showing and talking about negativity against the youth". Another said “I saw a headline which said "teenagers rob local shop". It’s stupid because you wouldn’t say 'adults rob local shop'!”, “It was not just youth who were involved in rioting and looting, but parents and adults as well. Unfortunately 95 per cent of news reports failed to label the other age groups involved”.

It is really important young people are not scapegoated and blamed for these riots. Ninety-nine of young people are not involved in serious youth violence, according to the London Serious Youth Violence Board, and if we focus on the 1 per cent who are, we risk creating a negative cycle. As one young person said “if young people feel like they are treated as scum so they will act as scum”. Despite current debates about the role social networking played in inciting copycat behaviour, almost two thirds of young people (63 per cent) told us that TV/Radio was the main source of information with only 14 per cent using facebook, and instant messaging as their provider of information.

There needs to be a focus on responsible reporting of such violence. It does not seem helpful that the same rolling images were being shown (as if live) on news programmes at least 24 hours after the events had actually taken place. Interestingly of the young people surveyed 86 per cent thought that parents should take more responsibility for their children’s crimes.

One of the outcomes of this situation has to be a long hard look at how society promotes parental support and creates opportunities for parents to engage and be proud of their youngsters. Our 2011 Listen Up report showed that over 66 per cent of young people said that the most inspirational person in their life was a family member as opposed to celebrity, friends etc.

Where there is a lack of parental support (for whatever reason), the Jack Petchey Foundation believes we have to create opportunity for alternative parent figures to engage with young people. Thousands of grass roots organisations work for the good of young people year on year and we know the difference to this makes to many youngsters who might otherwise be ‘lost’.  The Jack Petchey Foundation plans to invest a further £300,000 this year in our Achievement Award programme (making a total of £2.8m per annum) to inspire, support and affirm young people through these grassroots youth organisations  who provide  a sense of community, moral support and education for our youngsters.

Clearly there can be absolutely no justification for the violence that has occurred. Unlike previous riots in the UK it seems that there is not one clear cut cause and the underlying reasons are complex.

We call on government, policy makers and community leaders not to make knee jerk solutions to the situation but to engage with the communities directly affected, to engage with young people and to endure that they feel their voice is heard, as we build our society for the future.

Findings 

  • 50 per cent think causes of riots was mindless violence the rest say (boredom 13.5 per cent) (lack of provision/interest in young 13.2 per cent) (lack of morals 10.6 per cent) (gap between rich and poor 6.6 per cent) (youth unemloyment 6 per cent)
  • 5 per cent were asked to get involved but less than 0.5 per cent were actually involved
  • 95 per cent definitely would not take part if asked to, 2 per cent would consider (*1)
  • 63 per cent got their information from TV/Radio not social networking (14 per cent)
  • 45 per cent feel the coverage of young people was unfair
  • 86 per cent think parents should take more responsibility for their children's crimes

Footnotes 

1: Of the 5 per cent (10) who said they would get involved if asked – 5 said they would protest non-violently not riot, 3 felt it would be exciting, 1 wanted to overthrow the government and 1 was scared what would happen to his family if he didn’t. 

Further information from Jack Petchey Foundation:
Trudy Kilcullen – Chief Operating Officer  tkilcullen@petchey.co.uk  020 8252 8000
Gemma Dunbar – Grants Manager  gdunbar@petchey.co.uk  020 8252 8000
Lee Thompson – Events Manager   lthompson@petchey.co.uk  020 8252 8000

To editors:

Young people and youth organisations connected with the Jack Petchey Foundation are willing to talk to the media – please contact us for further details

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from an online snapshot survey young people conducted via SurveyMonkey. The survey was carried out 11th – 14th August 2011

 

Further Information:


Organisation Contact Details:

99% Campaign
Source: CRIN: Child Rights Information Network

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