Saturday, 2 August 2014

Take courage, kids!

It was recently reported that alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption amongst young people had fallen to the lowest level in a generation, and it has been widely observed that today’s youth seem to be a po-faced, earnest, unadventurous lot compared with their equivalents in earlier decades.

This subject is addressed in a must-read article entitled Britain’s timid teens need to go to the pub by Neil Davenport, who sees it as symptomatic of a wider social malaise.

The downside of making it much more difficult for pubs to socialise young people into adult society is a theme I have mentioned several times in the past. It is how you learn to deal with complex, multi-generational social spaces.

Adults were once of a similar view: many recognised drinking in the pub as a rite of passage, an important means by which young people became part of a local community. This is why many pub landlords used to turn a blind eye to 16- or 17-year-olds sneaking in for an illicit drink. In turn, teens would have to behave in a mature way in pubs to avoid being turfed out. Today, health authoritarians would be aghast at the idea of landlords knowingly serving underage drinkers. They would complain that drinking damages young people’s health, that it encourages alcohol dependency and aggravates anti-social behaviour. But 20 to 30 years ago, landlords and adult society more broadly instinctively understood how the pub helped teenagers become socially adept and confident adults. Far from social boozing automatically being seen as a threat, it was viewed as important to young people’s social development. Today, the reverse is the case: young people’s aversion to social drinking is stunting their development as socially confident and independent adults.
And it’s not only damaging to the pub trade, but is also likely to have wider negative social consequences:
The latest decline in boozing among young people in this new age of teen puritans is nothing to celebrate. Like staying at home with mum and dad into your thirties, it is an avoidance of what once defined us as adults. To have a truly healthy relationship with booze, it is time young people acquainted themselves with pubs and public drinking.
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, going to the pub – and a pub that catered for all age groups, not just one targeted at the young – was the default option for socialising. For most of our counterparts today, that is no longer the case and indeed, even where pubs do survive, their increasingly segmentalised nature makes it much harder than it once was.


  1. Most kids I know now are scared of their own shadows. Comes from a generation that's been nannied by the state since birth and told everything is either dangerous or bad for you. Socialising? They've got Facebook for that, so why bother with all that tiresome body language and interpersonal skills?

  2. Give the young some credit,why go to a non smoking pub,overpriced ale,staff clock watching and bar
    half full of yonners,when they can get a crate of cheap booze ,have a smoke,no worry about time and avoid weary,dreary hand wafters and semi dead pofaced wine sippers and burger nibblers.

  3. Previous two comments by grumbling oldies moaning about the failings of the younger generation. Sign of age, fellows.

    I Googled 'yonner'; two hits said an it's unsophisticated person from Oldham. What's Oldham done to annoy you so much?

  4. Yeah, bloke has hit the nail on the head. This is what I have observed over the past 5 years and I think its a much greater influence on the continuing decline of the pub industry than it is given credit for. Old regular or semi-regular customers leave/die and they're not being replaced by new ones.

    The idea of having a local pub where you just pop in for a few pints or the odd session a few times a week just doesn't exist for the U25s. They'd rather stay at home and play on their x-boxes.

    I think the idea that people will suddenly "discover" real ale and pub-going when they hit middle age is optimistic to say the least.

  5. I don't believe Mudge was ever in his teens or 20's.

    I believe he came fully formed into this world as a middle aged miserable old codger.

  6. @Cookie: I remain the same, the world just goes increasingly insane around me

    @py: another thing you don't seem to see so much any more is parents going to the pub with their grown-up children. Over the years I had many enjoyable pub visits with my late dad

  7. A lot of parents and grown-up children live hundreds of miles apart due to work nowadays.

  8. Equally, a lot more grown-up children continue to live with their parents into their thirties because of the high cost of housing.

  9. There are many potential explanations as to why pub going has declined amongst young people but two that strike me are the increase in available entertainment, both in the home and away from it, and the fact that young people just aren't made to feel particularly welcome in pubs.

    There is nothing more frustrating than being constantly being asked for your ID. This is irritating enough when with friends, but humiliating in the early days of dating. Why do something that makes you feel uncomfortable? I was 27/28 before I stopped being religiously asked for ID and it still happens now albeit infrequently and I'm 30 and showing significant signs of baldness!

    Interestingly enough I can't ever remember being asked for ID in a restaurant, even without a demonstrable 'adult' (so not taking advantage of the alcohol with meal age discrepancy). So how much are bar staff inventing these fears about underage boozing?

    One last thing that used to wind me up was 'Challenge 25'. I only have to look over 18, not 25! Why not Challenge 40 if they are playing those games?

    P.S. How come I got blocked on Twitter? Our brief exchanges were perfectly civil!

  10. "P.S. How come I got blocked on Twitter? Our brief exchanges were perfectly civil!"

    Having looked at your tweets, I have no idea. Unblocked now.

    I must have thought you were someone else...

  11. The article makes it clear the blame lies with wider trends in society rather than the young people themselves. They are only the product of their environment.

    Whether the pub trade could have taken a less appeasing attitude to demands for age verification is a moot point, but I'm sure if you are constantly being ID'd it makes you feel as though pubs aren't the place for you.

  12. I've been to several pubs when they turned into 'bars' and felt as though I should be asking the staff for ID!

    The point is valid, though. Is it 'nudge' theory? to make it as difficult and anti social to start drinking as to start smoking?

    The piece is equally valid. I've noticed it with my own children; one out of 4 that spends most time on social media and at home is the one who seems to have difficulty with inter personal skills, communication and confidence. Trying to get him out of it is a hell of a job. Fortunately, the other 3 followed my lead I'm pleased to say

  13. It's no wonder young adults hate pubs when old miserable pub goers hate kids.

    Make all pubs welcoming for kids & young families. Make all pubs give out colouring books and nugget meals. Let all kids into the playground.

    When older, they will bring there own kids.

    Smelly dirty fusty rooms of festering old blokes will always die off.

  14. The Festering Old Gentleman7 August 2014 at 10:36

    Screeching kids in pubs are probably the last thing young adults want to encounter.


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