The House

Let’s show young people that we care

- Ross Hendry Chief Executive, CARE

The Times once asked the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” GK Chesterton replied, “Dear Sir, I am.” Similarly, when asked about the challenges facing children and young people today, my answer is: us – all of us who give mixed messages and lack the courage to do the right thing even when it’s di cult or unpopular.

Having worked with children and young people I have seen how this generation is struggling on many fronts: a growing mental health pandemic, inequality of opportunit­y and poverty, a widening education attainment gap, obesity, violent crime, and exposure to sexual violence and pornograph­y to name but a few.

These are legitimate answers to the question about the challenges facing our younger generation. Yet I’ve spent my career looking upstream for the early interventi­on solutions to social problems and the starting point for helping our young people is us – all of us who shape and in uence public policy and social attitudes.

Generation Z are blessed with great assets like social awareness, a passion for justice, a commitment to work hard, creativity, and sensitivit­y. However, they are also deeply insecure, sceptical of authority and institutio­ns, anxious, often intolerant about perceived intoleranc­e, and open to be in uenced by subjective truth over objective facts.

Why? Because successive generation­s have let them down. We are grossly inconsiste­nt in how we treat children and young people. We want them to take responsibi­lity for their actions, while protecting them from every risk possible; we tell them to follow rules, when those older fail to pass good laws or stick to them; we talk about freedom without understand­ing that ourishing comes within the safety of boundaries.

Take exposure to sexual violence and pornograph­y. Polling for CARE showed that 80% of adults support age veri cation on online pornograph­ic websites. Indeed, CARE helped secure provision for this in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA). But this section of the Act has never been enacted. What message does that send children and young people?

It’s simply a matter of the will to do the right thing. Yes, one measure alone won’t x complex problems, but it can send a signal to our younger generation that we care and are willing to take action to protect and empower them.

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