THE internet: a teenage prophylactic. Who would have known?
All this time, parents have been worrying about the terrible things their teens are getting up to online, when in fact the internet has been keeping an electronic hand on their collective ha'pennies.
Fewer than 30,000 babies were born to teenage girls in England and Wales last year, new Office for National Statistics figures show, down from 45,000 in 2006.
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You might think New Labour's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, launched in 1999, could have had a hand in it. According to Professor David Paton of Nottingham University, you might be wrong. "Facebook use amongst teenagers was just getting off the ground in a significant way in 2007.
"Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that the amount of time spent interacting virtually with friends on a smartphone has led to fewer physical opportunities to engage in drinking, drugs and underage sex?"
Well, it's not the first time social media's been accused of hindering real-life connections, though the charge is usually negative.
Meanwhile, a recent survey about Generation Next - those currently aged 11 to 16 - has found they are a conservative young bunch. For "conservative" read "boring".
Of the 3,000 young folk surveyed, the majority sought stricter age limits on social vices: drinking, gambling, marriage and the like. They want the vote and are engaged in politics. Anyway, Generation Next comes over like a sensible, rounded, thoughtful, boring bunch. I don't believe a word of it. Teenagers the world over know the one immutable rule: tell the adults what they want to hear. It smooths the way from adolescence to adulthood.
Raising the age of consent isn't a sign of sense - it just lengthens the spell of time the vice is enjoyable. When you legitimise bad things, you obliterate the fun. The joy is in the forbidden. Smart move, Generation Next.
I'd wager many of these young people are taking part in exploits their parents would regard as hair-raising. I certainly hope so. Teenagerhood is for creating as much merry hell as possible, in as many different varieties as possible.
There's something uniquely disappointing about a well-behaved teenager.
For once my money's on the government strategy and Generation Next putting its good sense to good use.
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