Tuesday, 17 March 2009


I learnt a new word today - ephibiphobia  - it means a fear of young people.  I really enjoyed Tanya Byron's article in today's Guardian Education supplement tracking the concern of immoral and feckless youth back as far as 6000 year old Egyptian tombs.  She describes ephibiphobia as a historically nurtured and culturally damaging phenomenon.

I have written before about risk taking. Byron refers to our increasingly risk-averse culture, raising and educating kids in captivity.   Today i was speaking at a conference and attention turned to helping young people learn about sexual risk taking.  One worker talked about her recent residential where they undertook outward bound activities - walking a tight rope across a river.  They used the experience of doing this, and the safety gear they had used to protect them as a stimulus for discussion about condom use and safer sex. The discussion, I am sure was fantastic. And at least as important was providing opportunities for young people to experience the feelings associated with taking risks and the experience of achieving tasks.   Too many young people, as we grow up in a risk averse society are denied these types of experiences.

I think I was lucky, I grew up in the country, and spent endless hours making our own tight ropes and tyre swings across rivers, building camps and making bonfires.  Sometimes we got hurt.  Always we looked out for each other and I learnt many valuable lessons that have helped me in my adult life.  

My parents still live in the area.  When I visit I go to the same places and remember the fun I had.  Whilst I smile at my memories, it also makes me sad that children are no longer playing there in the same way.  It cannot be any more dangerous now, 25 years later than it was then, but our perception of danger has changed our willingness to let children and young people play, take risks and learn from them.

Today has been many things, but most of it has been the day I learned a new word, a word that so brilliantly describes a phenomena we must do our best to be rid of - ephebiphobia.  If it starts creeping up, remember how you felt when you were young.  And if that doesn't do it for you, think of some different times when you had your most fun and ask yourself, would the adults in your life have approved?

The rest of Byron's article is well worth reading


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