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Boredom and trouble. By @NJStanley94

By Nick Stanley

 

Boredom and trouble.

Woodbridge. A small town on the river Deben, sort of near Ipswich. I’ve been staying here for the last couple of days with Joe at his family home. It really is the quintessential, archetypal family home in a quintessential, archetypal countryside town. I love it.

It has everything you could want. It’s surrounded by fields, the town is filled with pub after pub after pub, it’s a close community in which everyone seems to know of everyone (and about everyone, too), it’s independent shops are interspersed with the odd chain and there’s a cohort of kids engaging in all sorts of high jinks and getting into – usually innocent – trouble. Because they’re bored.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. It should be cherished. An explosion of creative mischief born out of the restrictions imposed on them by their parents’ geographical choices.

Meeting Joe’s friends, I’ve heard stories about what they used to do to fill the weekends and school holidays. It sounds idyllic, and you can tell the warmth with which those days are remembered. Yes they misbehaved, but nothing too serious ever happened and they’re so close now because of it.

But walking around town earlier, Joe was saying how he felt sorry for the 17-year-olds now. It puzzled me at first. Why would he feel sorry for them when he’s spent the last couple days reminiscing about his experiences at that age? And recalling just how great it used to be?

I think he’s right though. He was lucky. His was probably the last group to live their youths as much in the real world as the digital one. The current crop didn’t shed their innocence drinking in fields and pushing their parents’ limits, they did it on Google and wherever that leads.

They saw, but they never experienced. The goalposts moved. What was considered troublemaking shifted up a couple levels. There was no thrill in doing as their predecessors had. They knew too much. Simple teenage pursuits were no longer enough to exorcise their rebellious urges.

Woodbridge was once a safe bubble to learn the ropes of being a teenager; somewhere you could push the boundaries, without the risks of doing so in a big city. But today, to feel as though they’re pushing the boundaries the teenagers have to go extreme.

I think that was what Joe meant when he said he felt sorry for them. When an 11-year-old has unfettered access to the Internet, a first snog and a stolen beer aren’t going to exhilarate her/him by the time they’re 14.

From the titbits I’ve picked up, a fair few are getting into real trouble. The kind of trouble that is dealt with by legal authority, not parental.

Notch another one up for social media.

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