Education and Solidarity Network

Fantastic and responsible young people!

Hawa Fatty
October 14, 2020

Over the past 6 months, it has become commonplace to see articles in the media on the attitudes of various people toward the coronavirus. Among the groups singled out, young people are undoubtedly the most often blamed.

It is in this regard that Latitude Jeunes, a youth organisation partner of Solidaris, has chosen to express their views.

Latitude Jeunes Op-Ed 

Over the past 6 months, it has become commonplace to see articles in the media on the attitudes of various people toward the coronavirus. Among the groups singled out, young people are undoubtedly the most often blamed.

Since the beginning of the crisis, some of the media have been trying to show that young people feel less concerned than adults about health measures, that they are taking less care to limit the spread of the virus, and sometimes even that they are irresponsible…

On the RTBF website, for example, there were comments such as “Do some young people behave unconsciously or do they have difficulty perceiving the dangers? This is what has emerged from several testimonies.” (1).

Last July, Franklin Dehousse, a professor at the University of Liège, given carte blanche by La Libre (2) went so far as to write that “There is obviously no point in talking to them about their families (which they endanger), or healthcare personnel (which they expose to a new tide of infections in risky situations), or the many workers whose job precludes them from lockdown (whose risks they aggravate). It is well understood that they are not interested in morality, justice or simple altruism. So let’s talk about the only thing that really interests them: themselves”.

Bernard De Vos, General Delegate for Children’s Rights, replied to him through the same news source, defending young people (3). Phew.

Another example: after this summer’s outbreaks in Belgium and France (the festive gatherings in Brussels and Lozère, for example), BFM TV ran the headline “Covid-19: irresponsible young people?” (4).

In short, these prejudices have stuck to young people for a long time and the Covid-19 crisis has not helped this image, which has been exacerbated by the media.

Beyond the fact that it is dangerous and misleading to make generalisations by talking about ‘young people’ (as if they were a single group who all have identical characteristics and a single way of thinking or acting), it would be better to let them make their own voices heard and to listen to the professionals in the field who have just spent a summer with this much decried group.

It is in this regard that Latitude Jeunes, a youth organisation partner of Solidaris, wishes to speak out.

Our survey “Young People and Lockdown” (5), conducted in May 2020, gave the floor to more than 500 young Francophones. It revealed that a majority of them find that the image of young people in the media is negative and distorted. Many protested the fact that it is often only the few cases where young people break the rules which are reported. Selected extracts:

“They make young people look reckless when we are not all like that”.

“I still have the impression that it is mainly the irresponsible ones who are put on display and that saddens me because it also affects respectful young people”.

“In the media, we’re often shown young people who do not respect lockdown, so of course there are some, but there are also a lot of young people who have taken risks to serve other citizens or to do voluntary work. I think young people are still being singled out for their bad deeds but not the good ones”.

 

Young Belgians are not the only ones to make this observation as a recent article in the French media displayed the indignation of about fifteen young adults who refuse to be scapegoats for this crisis (6).

For our part, we would like to draw attention to the fact that even if young people had checks carried out on them and were fined for non-compliance with lockdown most often, it was not necessarily because they were less compliant than older adults. It may also be because adults who did not respect the lockdown rules had the means to be more discreet: gathering at home rather than in a park, for example; or the means to better defend themselves in front of a law enforcement officer.

Furthermore, on the ground this summer we were able to observe attitudes that differ greatly from the image that the media wants to present.

In July and August, Latitude Jeunes welcomed several thousand young people and children to its day camps and residential stays. The young people who supervised these activities had to manage an unprecedented situation, with strict protocols to be respected and enforced on the children they supervised. They also had to face a great restriction of their freedoms in their role as activity leaders.

However, far from complaining or taking the rules lightly, our activity leaders led these camps this summer with a masterful hand!

Chloé Burton, head of Latitude Jeunes Liège, explains:

“Of course, some young people have been/are too reckless or irresponsible. Just as some adults have also been. But at Latitude Jeunes, this summer we have also and above all seen young people volunteering their time to allow hundreds of children and teenagers to enjoy their holidays, while struggling to integrate complex and changing protocols, showing imagination in adapting their educational programmes and respecting precautionary health measures without worrying the children or making everyday life more difficult. The situation was stressful, and they could have left, but they did it! ”

If some people allow themselves to describe “the youth” as irresponsible on the basis of the attitude of some, then we also want to describe them as civic-minded, united and responsible on the basis of the attitude of the majority.

We therefore think it is important to put the image that the media still too often gives of young people into perspective… and to keep in mind what is summed up in the aforementioned article: “If young people inevitably share the responsibilities of a collective slackening of vigilance, let us not forget that they are also the main victims of this crisis.” (6).

To conclude, we would especially like to say a huge THANK YOU to the young people who commit themselves to giving access to holidays to thousands of children every year with us, who carry out work of a remarkable quality and who we can most certainly count on!

Latitude Jeunes, partner youth organisation of Solidaris

Sources :

1. https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_comment-sensibiliser-les-jeunes-aux-risques-du-coronavirus-les-stars-des-reseaux-sociaux-se-mobilisent?id=10458110

2. https://www.lalibre.be/debats/opinions/lettre-ouverte-aux-jeunes-imbeciles-qui-prennent-le-coronavirus-pour-un-probleme-de-vieux-cons-5f085ddb7b50a6139b13bb92

3. https://www.lalibre.be/debats/opinions/crise-sanitaire-entre-vieux-cons-on-peut-tout-se-dire-5f0c6d4f7b50a6139b1b82ce

4. https://www.bfmtv.com/replay-emissions/focus-premiere/covid-19-les-jeunes-irresponsables-27-07_VN-202007270057.html

5. http://www.latitudejeunes.be/resultats-du-sondage-jeunes-et-confinement/

6. https://www.leparisien.fr/societe/sante/tribune-face-au-rebond-de-l-epidemie-la-jeunesse-refuse-d-etre-le-bouc-emissaire-15-08-2020-8368383.php

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