I’m not sure what qualifies as a “spate” (is there official guidance?), but there has been a spate-adjacent number of incidents of teenagers getting stuck in baby swings in York recently, solemnly reported in the local paper. The fire brigade “released the teenager and gave advice”, says one report, the advice presumably being: “Do not sit in a baby swing.”
I’m delighted by these incidents and what they represent: teenagers being teenagers and doing stupid stuff. There are neurological explanations for teenage silliness: the late maturing of the connections between the prefrontal cortex (involved in regulating decision-making and self-control) and other parts of the brain skews their perception of risk. Sometimes, that means eating detergent pods, duct-taping a friend to a tree or worse; more often it involves the kind of cheery, universal daftness typified by wedging yourself into a tiny swing.
The re-emergence of teenagers, lounging around children’s play areas, treading on municipal tulips, mock (or not mock) fighting and abandoning their cans has prompted a panicked surge of disapproval. They are using “foul” language and causing a “nuisance” and gathering in groups of more than six, people tut, swerving to avoid them. The neighbourhood app Nextdoor is full of complaints about youths “causing absolute mayhem”, as one user put it.
Let he or she who has not spun a mate dangerously fast on a roundabout for infants cast the first stone. Ask almost anyone about their teenage antics and they will get misty-eyed: we all recall sledging down vertiginous slopes on car parts or pushing each other into rivers. I was a pretty tame teen, but I would climb any railing, however high and deadly; my husband had a moped – enough said, really.
This lot have had no opportunity to do anything silly for most of the past year. They have been stultifyingly, admirably responsible and their reward is a cold shower of adult disapproval. They might be annoying, but I’m thrilled to see them getting wedged in street furniture. Nature is healing: bring on the mayhem.