The lack of leisure and entertainment facilities for teenagers is driving some to alcohol and substance abuse, according to a new report in which young islanders shared their experiences.
In ‘Life on the Rock’, 21 children and young people aged nine to 18 shared their experience of life in the island, discussing topics such as housing, safety, transport, education and leisure.
Commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the study was conducted according to a children’s rights-based methodology developed at the Centre for Children’s Rights, Queen’s University Belfast.
It followed a 2018 survey of 1,700 children, which found that, as children get older, they were more likely to say there was nothing to do and nowhere to go in their local area.
In addition, 42% of respondents aged between 11 and 18 had cited "better places for young people to spend time and play in their local area" as one of the top five things that would make life in Jersey better for them.
Pictured: Teenagers said there are not enough activities for their age in the island.
Those feelings were echoed in ‘Life on the Rock’, with a number of participants highlighting the lack of “affordable leisure”, while others pointed out that there were fewer age-appropriate activities for teenagers, with much of the island's leisure provision aimed towards younger children.
“I think especially at my age, everyone moans the fact that there isn’t enough things to do in Jersey because it’s such a small island, once you’ve done something a few times it gets very boring [laughs]. ... I think Jersey needs to do a lot of work on... entertainment for especially young people in Jersey,” Anna*, a 16-year-old, said.
Some children also noted being excluded from places because of their age. Jaya, aged 13, recalled times when she and her friends had been asked to leave a shop.
“Sometimes we just want to look, and they will say if we are not buying anything to leave, and we have to go out,” she said.
While a number of children cited McDonald’s as a regular place to “hang out”, some said they didn’t feel welcome there.
“I don’t particularly like it, but a lot of people go to McDonald’s,” Sophie (16) said. “But they don’t seem to like us being there. Like it’s quite funny at 20:00 they turn on classical music to try and lead the children out which I think’s really funny. It doesn’t work.”
Pictured: While a number of children cited McDonald’s as a regular place to “hang out”, some said they didn’t feel welcome there.
As a result, older children are relying more on “unstructured” leisure activities, such as “wandering around town and hanging around particular hotspots, as well as time spent in each other houses or connecting from home via online game consoles”, according to the report.
Some of the participants also reported that substance use was a feature of “day-to-day social life for children” and something expected of them, with relationships breaking down if they didn’t join in.
One teenager reported how some people left her friendship group because they were “annoyed” others in the group would rather watch movies and play scrabble instead of drinking.
A number of the young people raised drugs as “a safety issue” - particularly girls who said they avoided the very places others had noted as usual hangouts. Those included Millennium Park - a place to be avoided because of “drugs... and drunk people” according to Anna (16) - and Havre des Pas, where young people are “heavily drunk, typically high”, as Sophie (16) observed.
Sophie, who had also witnessed incredibly drunk and high people at a house party she felt she needed to leave, felt that substance use was linked to boredom.
“I just think there’s stuff that needs doing with like alcohol and drugs,” she said. “People fall into it really easily here. I think they get bored. Because there’s not that much to do. And people just like end up doing drugs... especially as [my school], I find there’s huge drug levels here and it’s like... makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes. I’m like, why is everyone trying to... do cocaine?”
Pictured: Some kids said they avoided areas such as Havre des Pas because of their peers drinking or using drugs there.
She said she would never go to Havre des Pas on a Friday or Saturday night, when people in her year group do, because they “get completely hammered, usually on drugs, and it’s not my scene."
Reuben (14) also called for more action around drugs, which he said were common in the island. He said not enough was done to address the issue as discussions with teachers were not enough to put people off using drugs.
PC Joel Bastable, one of the Police’s School and Youth Focus Officers, told Express his team had noticed an increase of reports of drugs use and drug interest in local schools, adding that the issue was across all of them.
People may think that certain schools might have more prevalence with drugs,” he said. “I go to a range of schools in the island and they have the same young people and the same problems. It’s across the board really, they all have the same issues.”
PC Bastable said it was important for young people to be educated about drugs so that they can recognise them, whilst also ensuring they do not become a taboo subject which would make them more “exciting”.
Officers work hand-in-hand with local schools, which PC Bastable said are very “proactive” about education and report any drugs they discover.
While part of the education aims to enable young people to understand the ramifications of drug use, the intention is not to criminalise youngsters in their learning environment.
“School is a place where you are allowed to make mistakes,” he said. “The aim is to use anything like that as a learning opportunity without the consequences. We give people the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from it, if you continue after this, it is no longer a mistake but a choice.”
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