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Hand of help held out for teens in trouble

Drunken driving; sexual harassment; petty crime; relationship problems; dietary problems. All such behavioural disorders are on the rise among today’s urban youth. And help is coming from neither home nor school.

In a bid to boost awareness among parents and teachers of the physical and emotional strains afflicting teenagers, over 600 parents, teachers and students will put their heads together in a convention this week.

The forum, organised by parenting organisation IpsCan and commencing at St Xavier’s College on Sunday, will address the causes behind widespread social ills involving the youth. A panel of experts comprising academics, clinicians, schoolteachers and police officials will hold direct talks with ‘high achievers’ selected from among the city’s youth.

Criminal offences like drug abuse, drunken driving, robbery and sexual harassment had shown alarmingly steep increases among teenagers over recent years, warned additional commissioner, traffic, Sandhi Mukherjee, who will address the convention. “More young people are driving cars today and we are seeing a tendency to drive recklessly and when drunk or under the influence of drugs. There are also persistent instances of sexual harassment of women, particularly on lonely roads, by youths on bikes. Car theft by young people is increasingly prevalent, as are cases of juvenile delinquency,” he told Metro.

Convention organiser Ipsita Dasgupta said increased communication between parents and children could help reduce this phenomenon. “Adolescents face problems every step of the way. Parents want independent and responsible children, but not all parents are giving the support their offsprings need.”

Dasgupta attacked the corporate world’s exploitation of a captive youth audience. “Companies are spending massively on the promotion of youth products, but have shown a complete failure to provide resources to counter their social problems.”

She also condemned a “lack of support in schools and colleges”. “Parents and teachers alike must understand that education is not just about doing well in exams, but about producing well-rounded individuals.”

Former lecturer at Loreto College Ayesha Das, who will chair the convention, singled out fathers in particular for a lack of adequate involvement. “Parents, particularly fathers, are failing to address the core issues, whilst teachers are not showing proper concern for their students’ difficulties. We have a very unhealthy blame culture, where it is automatically the student’s fault if he is not performing academically.”

She added: “Youngsters must cope with issues arising from a consciousness of changes in the body — relationship problems with the opposite sex and also weight and dietary problems.”

Actress Niharika Seth, 21, who will participate in the talks as a member of the youth panel, felt that today’s adults grew up in a different world, and need to spend more time examining the motives that belie their children’s behaviour, instead of simply being judgmental. “For instance, parents have difficulty accepting the increasing prevalence of sex before marriage. Young people are now having sex as early as 16, or before. But sex education in schools is still completely inadequate. These issues need to be addressed.”

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