Bloody hell, kids are stupid.
That’s what I thought today when I read the news that a ‘dangerous’ game is sweeping across social media, consuming spotty, impressionable teens.
It’s pretty easy to play. The creatively named “Game of 72” only makes one demand: that its participants disappear on purpose for 72 hours.
Sounds fun, right? I mean what’s better than scaring your parents and having nothing to do for three solid days. Part of me thought, screw it, if those teens are dumb enough to think this is a good idea, they deserve every bit of their comeuppance. I feel the same way every time I hear about the latest teen sexting angst, or girls running off to join ISIS.
And then the more I point my finger, the more I realise that it could have been me doing all those stupid things. I reminisce about the rebellious fantasies of my yonder years that I wasn’t brave enough to live out. When I ask myself what the reason for them is, it seems simple: boredom.
Yeah, boredom. It’s surprisingly dull being a teen, and I blame school. We think of our school days as some of the best times of our lives, carefree and easy. But for some they can also feel like an eighteen-year prison sentence with smelly inmates, bad food and miserable authority figures.
There’s also the company. Year after year you’re stuck with the same people. At least in the real world – aka work – you interact with individuals from multiple backgrounds. School can feel like being in a relationship with someone you didn’t choose. And more than that, it can leave you feeling totally sexually frustrated.
This may seem like a trivial point, but it’s especially pertinent for teenagers going to single-sex schools. People I know have, literally, pushed their sexuality to its limits in order to get some form of action. With the lack of choice for guys in my sixth form, a testosterone-fuelled village goat could have probably tempted me. I’m not saying sexual frustration was the prime reason those girls ran off to ISIS to become wives, but I am suggesting that the limited choice of people we have for company as teenagers can skew our minds, forcing us to consider totally inappropriate alternatives.
Schools haven’t changed much from when I left sixth form around ten years ago. They are places where students have no place to harvest their imagination, and are forced into activities that don’t always engage them. Then they get home where they are flooded with television shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, which serve to emphasise how much more exciting and dangerous their lives could be. We are animals: if we do not get social and intellectual stimulation in our ordinary places, we look for it elsewhere.
My teenage education seemed especially dull when I compared it to my primary one. I went to an amazing – albeit a bit hippy-drippy – independent school in London. It was all about free will and expressing yourself. I called my teachers by their first names, we didn’t wear uniforms, and we viewed maths like a giant turd that was to be avoided at all costs. The day was unstructured and mostly consisted of interpretive dance lessons, sewing or art. When I heard people from other school complain about their days I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. School was a place of laughter for me – where my imagination could run free. What I learnt back then is that there’s no time to be naughty when you’re happy.
But teenagers today aren’t happy. They’re bored out of their wits because somehow we have made education – one of life’s greatest joys – desperately dull. So I can understand why they have turned into idiots; why they might think it’s fun to get lost for 72 hours. They are hungry for adventure – even if that, more often than not, ends up as misadventure.