Teenagers may be the most demonised age group in the UK today. They are also least the heard, engaged and understood, according to a new research report.
Teenagers and Public Space gives voice to the perspectives of young people on antisocial behaviour, the challenges they face in their communities, and how to fix them.
The research, led by A Place in Childhood, in collaboration with Sustrans Scotland, involved 146 young people, aged 12-18 across three communities Huntly (Aberdeenshire), Denny (Falkirk), and North Edinburgh.
- Antisocial behaviour (ASB) is largely attributable to boredom and the lack of purposeful opportunities, or places to hangout, which are accessible and affordable for all.
- Adults tend to tar all teenagers with the same brush, even though ASB is attributable to a minority. Prejudice, unwelcoming and antisocial behaviour directed at young people was an experience common to all, and in itself promotes teenage ASB.
- Teenage girls don’t feel safe going out in some communities, unless they are in groups. In one case study, even in groups they will travel elsewhere to hangout. Girls reported that places that are family-friendly often feel safest and most appealing to hangout in.
- Litter, vandalism and poorly-maintained public spaces depress teenagers – even those who are responsible – but they don’t see why they should care about a place, if no one else does.
- Natural spaces are important to teenagers, as well as affordable sports and leisure facilities, interest clubs and age-appropriate play equipment.
- In the absence of good adult or peer role models, ‘cool’ is often defined by rebellious older siblings and local groups, which entrenches ASB over time.
- ASB has been exacerbated by the isolation we all experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and by a tendency for adults and peers to avoid tackling the issue since. Young people are calling for tougher enforcement of social rules to accompany improved opportunities.
- Teenagers were clear that involving them meaningfully in the design of public spaces and strategies for addressing ASB was critical to resolving all of the above.