Joe Knight on health scares and teenagers

Joe Knight Being a teenager and being healthy are two things you hope can go hand in hand. However while your mind is tirelessly trained by the finest educators in the land, your body sits idly by, forever being stuffed full of the sugar and caffeine that keep the ever busy brain working.

In between school, homework and getting enough sleep, your body ends up getting neglected, while your mind is being sculpted into a strutting athlete. It’s a tough road to tread at the best of times, especially as you’re stuck in the limbo between being too old to gallivant around in a park and being too young to pump iron at the gym. For most of us, it’s making sure we can survive and pass that exam without ballooning into some grotesque byproduct of a Big Mac and a doughnut sundae. It doesn’t help that we’re forcefully wrapped in cotton wool.

Every day the government slaps yet more absurd regulations and age restrictions on the last few activities where we can break a sweat and have fun. For example, a school ice skating trip had to be abandoned because the months of careful planning clearly weren’t enough to prove that a small group of fourteen year old kids could safely navigate a 20 minute skating session without someone dying or losing a vital limb. Eventually, it ends up with us drowning our sorrows in a large tub of ice cream, unable to leave the house due to the obscene piles of homework and safety application forms.

But the problems with risk, or the lack of it, don’t end with diet. By being so pedantic with risk management, the government simply encourages young people to do the same. We are taught that everything is a threat. How then can you expect us to ignore health scare stories where and when they pop up? How do we filter the nonsense when we’re taught to look for the danger in the most mundane of activities? It’s no surprise that most teenagers will readily swallow up all they read in any vaguely respectable publication, trained to spot danger in all parts of life.

Recently, 93 children contracted E coli O157 following a visit to a petting zoo (or ‘open farm’). This, of course meant that stroking friendly barnyard animals was no longer safe, and thus measures have been taken to reduce the risk posed by these establishments. The epidemic was no doubt a tragedy, however, it would be equally tragic if one unfortunate incident were to make the whole ‘open farm’ industry obsolete, tied down beneath rules and regulations. Again however, we tread a fine line. Too many rules and it becomes impossible to do anything, too few and it’s unsafe, and I’d rather be bored at school that lose a finger ice skating. I just find it ironic though, that the government is willing to protect us from the perils of ice skating when they so readily allow fast food to be advertised and available on every street corner.

Joe Knight is a year 10 student at Fortismere School, London