16th June 2021

Walking our dog on a different route one morning recently, we passed (at plenty of social distance) several groups of school children. One thing I noticed – not a single individual in any of the groups  was looking at a mobile phone. Groups of girls and boys walked along, chatting away. Boys and girls on their own walked along – one of them looked particularly dishevelled and out-of-sorts; we speculated that he had got up late (though he seemed in no great hurry to make up lost time!) – looking down, or up, or dreamily at some far-flung horizon (which in Redland isn’t very far-flung…) but not at a mobile phone screen.

This is counter to all expectation. Youngsters, we keep hearing, are obsessed with screens. Apocryphal stories abound of the damage done to growing minds by the on-line world – the inappropriate websites, the abusive messages, the ‘trolling’. Yet, it seems, at least these youngsters (perhaps they were unique) were as normally occupied as ever were children going to school. It could have been a scene from any decade for the last fifty or sixty years.

Of course the damage (and the concern) is real, but it is not, perhaps, universal. Adult angst about the waywardness of youth is nothing new. Neither then, is the happy-and-sad mix of the growing, learning experience. Youngsters will grow and will, please God many of them, make the world a better place. ‘And a little child shall lead them’ indeed.

Michael Docker