The sight of young people gathering on streets and in shopping centres is one of the things that can create alarm or suspicion in adults, who think such groups are going to be abusive or extreme in their behaviour. But today’s report from the Good Childhood inquiry ought to challenge many popular misconceptions about young people and our shared public space.
Set up by the Children’s Society in 2006, the inquiry has so far reported on children’s attitudes to friends, family and learning. What may come as a surprise in today’s findings is that many young people themselves feel that they are not safe or welcome in public places, sometimes because of aggressive gangs colonising these places, but also sometimes because of unfriendly adults. Hanging around in groups is often a way for many youngsters to feel secure, rather than a way of menacing anyone else. And the discouragement of games in public places intensifies the problem.
The inquiry’s earlier reports had few surprises – children value their friends, want stable, loving families with a proper parental presence and expect schools to be supportive and free from bullying.