Long life

The young are miserable and the old are happy – shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Surveys prove the anomaly – I blame smartphones

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

29 August 2015

9:00 AM

We learn from a new report that children in England are among the unhappiest in the world — more unhappy, even, than the children of Ethiopia, Algeria or Israel. Why should this be so? Life is still quite good in England. It is generally peaceful and prosperous. Yet, in the admittedly rather haphazard list of countries surveyed by the Children’s Society and the University of York, the only one in which children were found to be more miserable than here was South Korea. The children of Romania and Colombia were all far happier.

The two main reasons offered for this despondency among English children were bullying in schools and worries, particularly among girls, about their appearance. The researchers found that more than a third of English schoolchildren between the ages of ten and 12 claimed to have been physically bullied during the previous month. More than half said that they had been cold-shouldered, taunted or belittled. The figures suggest that there are an awful lot of bullies around, but perhaps bullying doesn’t make you happy either.

The gloom among English children about what they look like — Colombian girls are apparently delighted with their looks — is partly attributed by the report to the popularity of social media in Britain. Children are said to compare themselves with the ‘perfect’ bodies they see online and feel inadequate by comparison. Here, I feel, the researchers are on to something, but are failing to grasp the full measure of it.

As I was writing here a month ago, excessive dependence on smartphones and other electronic devices has been established by hordes of researchers as a major cause of depression. And it is rare to find any English child of ten to 12 who isn’t glued to some device: texting, listening, watching or whatever — silent, unresponsive, and totally uninterested in whatever may be going on in the real world. Maybe there are fewer bullies among Romanian or Colombian children, but I suspect that the main reason for their greater cheerfulness is that most of them can’t afford smartphones.

We of a certain age — oldies, in a word — were spared these numbing devices when we were young, which may well be why there are still many of us who look back on our childhoods as the happiest days of our lives. I am not one of them, but I still don’t think I was generally miserable in my youth. I may, however, be happier now, for one survey after another tells me that I ought to be. For all their potential decrepitude and senility, oldies are now regularly described as being unexpectedly full of fun and gaiety.

We, though, the oldies — not perhaps the elderly. In a survey published 13 years ago, Boots the Chemist found that most people enjoyed their happiest times between the ages of 65 and 74. I am 75, so for me it’s downhill from now on. Nevertheless, you might expect that even people of 74 might start to be feeling a little depressed. They are weaker and slower-witted than they were, they are too old to realise most of their dreams, and the grim prospect of death is hoving into view.

Yet the Boots survey found that they were on the whole very cheerful. This wasn’t so much because they had pensions and bus passes and plenty of time to do whatever they wanted, but because they said they felt a greater sense of control over their lives. Strangely, they claimed to be more optimistic than before; and still more strangely, they were more content with their appearance. With less to look forward to, they felt greater optimism? With physical deterioration, they preferred what they looked like? It seemed to make no sense.

But maybe it’s just because old people simply don’t worry any more. Provided that they are still in good health, and many of them are, and that they have enough money put away, they tend to be footloose and fancy-free. That is why, according to Barclays Bank, the over-65s spend more on having fun — on holidays, entertainment, gambling and golf — than any other age group. That is also perhaps why middle-class pensioners are found in yet another survey to be the heaviest drinkers in the land, while the young are becoming increasingly teetotal. The young are terribly anxious; the old just don’t care any more.

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  • Peter L


    There are two iron laws of surveydom: (1) The results will match the interests of the organisation carrying it out; (2) The results will provide easy copy for journalists looking for a story in the dog days of August.

    Of course a survey conducted by the Children’s Society proves our kids are miserable. If it proved they’re ecstatically happy, we wouldn’t need a charity to look after the little sods!

    • Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves

      Miserable little sods! They always seem so Californian in their readiness to self-analyse and attribute blame to others. Self-harming is the latest attention seeking fad.

    • ViolinSonaten b minor.

      And the Children’s Society know best don’t they, that’s why they need all our
      money in charitable donations.
      But just maybe children are too pampered..

  • flydlbee

    Spoilt brats!

  • Sue Smith

    They are miserable because it’s “all about me”. That’s a short road to hell.

    Seriously, think about it. If you are thinking about others rather than yourself you’re more likely to be happy as your focus is outwards. But thinking exclusively about the self is destined to create misery.

    Get out, enjoy life, think of others, enjoy their company, understand that life isn’t meant to be easy and develop the skills to deal with the capricious thing we call “life”.

    That will be 88 pounds, thanks.

    • Augustus

      Your last sentence is right when approaching adulthood, but there are very few children and young teenagers who don’t think mostly about themselves. And I suspect that’s how it’s been since at least the Rock ‘n Roll era.

      • Sue Smith

        But the statistics on depression focus on teenagers and 20 somethings being miserable; they should be beyond childhood by then. I suggest a pattern of egotism, fostered by a culture of narcissism generally, enables this. That and no belief system external to self.

        I have no statistical proof of this, of course, just my long life experience. Having read “The Culture of Narcissism; American Life and the Age of Diminishing Expectations” (Christopher Lasch), nothing surprises me about modern life. He predicted it all in that book! 1979!!

        • Anonymous

          How about all those pensioners that kill themselves and suffer from depression? Miserable fuckers, they should just get out and enjoy life!

          • Sue Smith

            Why are you so angry?

      • ViolinSonaten b minor.

        Ah is that it – the children now instead of obsessing about One Direction breaking up- don’t ask ! They should have experienced Rock ‘n Roll 😉

  • Clive

    I went to a catholic boys’ grammar school and my sister went to a catholic girls’ grammar school – a convent school, in fact. At my school we were frequently beaten with cane and ‘tolly’ for things like ‘talking in the corridor’. My sister suffered no corporal punishment at all.

    Yet my sister feared the nuns much, much more than I feared our priests and teachers. The nuns had developed psychological torture.

    Everyone with a mobile phone / iPad or whatever suffers that torture all the time now, I think.

  • sir_graphus

    Normally these surveys measure inequality, and convert that straight to happiness. In most of Egypt, Algeria, Ethopia used as examples here, everyone is dirt poor. If they’re so happy, why do thousands of them pay a fortune to people smugglers to get them to a campsite in Calais as soon as they reach adulthood?

    • polistra24

      The unhappy ones are the wanderers, by definition. The contented ones stay in Nigeria and Ethiopia. Result: even more happiness in Nigeria and Ethiopia, even more unhappiness in EU/US/UK.

  • Precambrian

    They are raised with relativism (which is unstable), entitlement (which is self-absorbed) and media (which is attention-seeking).

    Gosh, what a surprise is the outcome.

    • Sue Smith

      Spot on, very unfortunately.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Too much money and not enough discipline.

    • justejudexultionis

      Too little money and not enough jobs!

  • ohforheavensake

    Can someone tell me when the silly season’s over?

  • Peter Stroud

    So it’s all down to iPhones and social networking. In that case, as the technology becomes even cheaper, it will not be long before the entire world’s children will be suffering in a similar fashion. On the other hand the whole study might be nothing but claptrap. Unfortunately, this is often the case.

    • Anonymous

      Blaming smart phones is a poor, and rather bizarre cop out.

  • Anonymous

    I think there’s a rather obvious answer to the question as to why British children are so miserable – it lies in the spavined, withered conscience of British adults. All around this country I see kids who are bored, violent and uninspired mainly as a result of never being stimulated or paid proper attention to by a competent grown-up along with having nothing to do. Schools are filled with these stupid idiots who we have the nerve to call ‘teachers,’ most of whom seem to be barely out of childhood themselves. As for British parents, perhaps if they spent more time loving their children and less time drinking and watching TV, their kids might be happier. Blaming smart phones is just a cop out, for once I wish the country of my birth would take responsibility for it’s problems.

    • jeremy Morfey

      I was made to understand that it was “inappropriate” for adults to love children, especially if they are discarded fathers. You risk 5 years and a lifetime entry on your record, so don’t even try. At the very least, expect a knock on the door from plod demanding an explanation for your interest.

      Far better with the TV, the smartphone, and the teachers vetted for disinterest. Children are “safe” with them. And apparently better prepared for the adult world, when they enter into it butterfly-like in their teens. I knew at least two young people who committed suicide soon after they left school and entered into the realities of adult living.

      Devising working escape strategies from dodgy situations should be part of upbringing. If a child of 8 can be expected to cross the road safely, so too should he or she be capable of walking along it safely. That way, a developing child can confidently encounter every sort of person, and every sort of danger with the confidence to enjoy the world as it is, and not the fluffy cottonwool world of the advertisers.

      As for bullies, every generation has them. I was bullied at school, and trying to work out the best strategy to deal with it was a nightmare for everyone. Nobody really had the answer, other than to give the bully a good thumping – a bit hard when he (or she) is bigger or cleverer than you, or has some sort of authority vested from above (I always found prefects to be the worst bullies of all). Once bullied, it follows you through life – I was bullied out of regular employment by County Council officials at the age of 51 (they wanted a young woman, not a grumpy old man, so they changed my terms of employment and I fought back). At that age you’re not supposed to feel sorry for yourself afterwards, but keep writing the CVs hoping that a lack of a decent reference can somehow swing it when competing with those half your age. Or do what the youngsters do and give up banging your head against a wall and get on with something more constructive.

      A child’s best defence against bullies is to associate with friends rather than enemies, and a friendless child (or a friendless adult for that matter) is extremely vulnerable. Making friends therefore needs to be a prime skill to be taught to those who find it hard, and enabled at all levels of society. Otherwise, friends can be found online (as I am attempting engaging in political debate here) which is not healthy.

  • JabbaTheCat

    It’s all down to depression due to the stress of deprivation of the latest model iPhone or similar product…

    • ViolinSonaten b minor.

      Or not having a small ginger cat as a pet 😉 most parents just stuff them in front of the latest i phone or tablet and neglect the little mites- have some pity ;-D

  • cartimandua

    Because when you live in a country which demands of you but doesn’t care for you it is cr**.

    • davidofkent

      Sadly, the shape of employment has changed and there are now far too few career jobs. The majority of jobs are for customer-facing operatives and the European immigrants excel at service, unlike our own little darlings.

      • cartimandua

        Have you tried dealing with any call centres?

  • Callipygian

    I think that just not caring any more would be the death of me. So would frittering my time away in pointless pursuits. But to each his own.

    As for smartphones, I do not know why parents allow them. They are toxic for anyone that hasn’t learned to live without constant recourse to devices. (I use my devices all the time, of course, but I reached adulthood without using computers — and I use them; they don’t use me. A smartphone is one device I don’t yet have.)

  • blandings

    I was a happy child. I don’t think I realised there was any other option available to me. And maybe this is the answer to the current problem – who is telling children that there are entitled to be miserable?
    I was a very happy teenager too come to think of it: Beatles on the record player and all the girls I could consume. It all seemed pretty good to me.

  • I believe that survey (rolls on floor laughing).

  • asdfff

    why would children of israel be unhappy?

  • Alex Williamson

    English children are miserable because their country has been sold from under them and they have no future. They are dissatisfied with their appearance because they eat too much, do too little, and bulge out of their hideous polyester sportswear in a most unsightly fashion. They are correct on both counts.

    • ViolinSonaten b minor.

      Children really wouldn’t know that now would they ?

      Children have more to play with these days and are given the latest gadget
      but they have less freedom. I used to play in the woods all day long or go
      cycling- parents wouldn’t allow that now.

      • Alex Williamson

        I was thinking of 10 to 16 year olds rather than young children.

    • Callipygian

      I don’t know whether they really ‘do too little’ or not: my awareness of schools (I live right near one and my husband teaches at another) indicates that they exert themselves physically much of the time. But fat-burning requires inefficient exercise — a fact known to coaches but apparently not to anyone else — and that means one has to struggle with difficult tasks one isn’t already good at that, and then, when mastery is in sight, move on to something else. In short, one must train. As Dan John says: ‘Everything works, for six weeks’. And the fitter you are the harder it is to make ‘just anything’ work.

      But children are at or near their natural physiological peak. So the real problem isn’t exercise, it’s diet. As any athlete knows, you can’t outwork a dozen doughnuts a day.

  • Kasperlos

    The young are ‘in touch’ via their technology rather than through, as my generation was, ‘primitive’ human contact. A new being has been birthed. The very young of today are the precursors to the coming Artificial Intelligence, read bots, zombies, clones, drones. So utterly sad. Perhaps the unhappiness stems from the human DNA recognizing that this so-called modern world constructed for us by others is wholly unnatural. For the young to be glued daily to devices is robbing them of the human experience. Parents should decouple their children – as much as one possibly can – from this tyranny. Welcome (not) to your brave new world.

  • Dogsnob

    In the UK, there are many ‘youngs’. Not all of them are miserable.
    Young Muslims are anything but miserable, for they can see that the nation is going their way and will be theirs soon.

    Young, indigenous white kids are very miserable because they can see that same thing: they are losing their country and can do nothing about it.

    Hence, so many take to drugs and to the abuse of alcohol in a similar way to that of the Native Americans when that same fate became clear to them. They have no long term future so why not?

    • Callipygian

      Gosh, now I’m thoroughly depressed.

      • ViolinSonaten b minor.

        So am I. Just opened the wine whilst I start cooking dinner, might need a glass
        to cheer myself up.

        • Callipygian

          Bon appetit. Let’s hope Dogsnob is wrong.

          • Dogsnob

            Sorry but the demographics speak for themselves. We have more than enough people sugar-coating the path to oblivion – quite a few here on these pages.

          • We could change the demographics: we have the power.

          • Dogsnob


          • Stop new ones from coming and deport the troublemakers.

          • Dogsnob

            If only! But we simply do not have the power to do anything like this.
            The entire British political scene clings to the belief that our own people must be subjected to continuing massive immigration. No move towards putting the brakes on are to be allowed.
            Any person or party calling for a different approach, find themselves the subject of virulent attack. See the treatment of Farage and UKIP at the hands of Spectator hacks and many others.
            We have no power and can only look on as our country is changed into a foreign, over-populated land.

          • I’m glad I wasn’t born 20 or 30 years later….

          • I like the new avatar by the way.

          • Dogsnob

            Tah. Dacre Bridge, Lake District, UK

    • WTF

      Young Muslims are anything but miserable ? Not so sure about that as many are no longer content to wait until they die of natural causes before they get to those virgins in heaven as they either follow the Rotherham model to get their rocks off now or become a Jihadist to get to heaven quicker !

      • Dogsnob

        You are describing zeal, not misery.

    • George

      You can’t seriously be comparing the rise in Muslim population in this country, to the on going effects from the atrocities that befell the Native Americans? Also where is

      Where is the evidence for any of these claims? I struggle to believe you are a young person or a parent. I have never met a pier that shares your views. In addition young indigenous white kids, whatever that means, can be muslim. Religion does not define someones colour or nationality.

      • Dogsnob

        The land will be theirs – we are losing it against our will but we are powerless. We will be marginalised. Our way of life, our history and all its trappings will be – is being – swept away. What is happening to Palmyra will happen to Rome.

        We are their aborigines.

        • George

          You haven’t elaborated at all on you theory. Where is the evidence for your beliefs? Give me some links to survey’s showing how happy muslim kids are and the findings that white kids are depressed because of a muslim takeover. Please tell me who these “indigenous white kids” are and what that even means?

          • Dogsnob

            I have no links to surveys.
            You know what indigenous means and that there are indigenes recognised all over the globe but somehow the concept is verboten in places where white people call home.

          • ViolinSonaten b minor.

            You do realise you’d need to return to the Neolithic period to
            find truly indigenous people. Happy battling with that spear.

          • Dogsnob

            Define ‘truly indigenous’ please.

          • George

            You provide us with no evidence and fail to recognise you have made incorrect comments, going against the definition of the language you’re using. Failure to go back on any of you’re previous points shows you to be a racist, rational thought is lost on you and my energy has obviously been wasted here. Go on hating brother.

          • Dogsnob

            I’m stating what is happening. The fact that you either don’t like what is happening or don’t want it to be reported, is your affair. Don’t expect that to have any sway over my viewpoint.
            As far as ‘definition of the language’ goes, are you sure you want to go down that route, what with your threadbare grasp of written English and all?
            Explain please, how I am a racist? (And it might be an idea to have a grown-up skim over it before you click send).

          • George

            Your opinions are based on no evidence and all you can attack me on my English? “The fact that you either don’t like what is happening or don’t want it to be reported”? Is that not completely contradictory to our views. Lets not attack anybody’s English here, it only seeks to distract from the argument.

            “Young, indigenous white kids are very miserable” because of a muslim takeover is just a racist view based on nothing. Religion does not define someones colour or nationality. That is a mistake on your part and failure to admit it mistake denotes you’re racist.

          • Dogsnob

            You’re using lots of words to make no sense whatsoever.

          • George

            Fair point I’ve edited it

          • Dogsnob

            Could I just ask: is your beef simply that my observations are inaccurate and nothing of the scenario I describe is actually going to happen; or, do you accept that what I state is correct but I am out of order in being negative about it?

      • greencoat

        So we can all convert to the wonders of Islam? Why didn’t you say so sooner. Phew, we’re all much happier now.

  • Lina R

    They are mollycoddled and handed everything on a plate so there is no gratitude. Everything the child demands, the child gets, whether it be attention or material objects. There were many problems in my family growing up, but my sisters and I were grateful for everything we had – maybe because there was such little attention/money. I see children around me with relatively more charmed lives yet they seem unhappy and always whining about what they don’t have. I blame social media, indulgent parents and a superficial culture.

    • ViolinSonaten b minor.

      Children don’t seem to have a ‘ childhood’ a 12 year old relative of mine is
      more like 35 years of age. And her alpha mummy is ok with that.
      From a young age it seems the TV or the i phone does the parenting,
      keeps them occupied. Gadgets even appear at mealtimes.
      So there might be an issue with forming relationships, i know of some
      children who mainly speak to friends on facebook and can’t be bothered otherwise.

  • WTF

    The young are miserable because they have become so used to having everything now as an entitlement rather than patiently waiting or saving up for a luxury item that they no longer know the value of anything. As baby boomers, we had to wait for luxury items and for many that meant until they hit 40, 50 or even 60 years old but teenagers expect it now as a right. I have no sympathy and just hope they learn some lessons here the hard way.

    • justejudexultionis

      Yes but the difference is that now most young people cannot hope even to get the basics such as their own (modest) home or the kind of free tertiary education and medical support that your generation received.

      • WTF

        Most of us baby boomers never thought that we would be able to afford a home or a new car but we waited, saved & worked hard and we finally achieved it. We didn’t go on overseas vacation 2 or more times a year, we saved our money to buy a home rather than spending it on Apple iPads or watches and eventually we got there.

        We knew the true value of things and our parents managed it despite being poorer and today’s young can manage it as well if they choose to. When I see 20 something couples getting married today, they expect to move into a gleaming new house with brand new furniture, 60 inch flat screen TV’s, an expensive kitchen, in fact everything that my wife and I had to wait 30+ years for. Not for them hand me down furniture from members of the family and in my case a 12 inch B&W television and the only new item a double bed. In fact, we even bought a second hand table and chairs recently to replace an old one as it was far better made than modern rubbish and a lot cheaper. No, today’s young married want it all immediately and are too proud or naive to buy sensibly.

        I never felt deprived as a kid, a teenager or a young married person but by waiting and being prudent, I’m relatively comfortable now in retirement. You have a choice in life, go without the luxuries when your younger to obtain the essentials like a roof over your head and benefit in your retirement OR spend it all when you’re young, never get a property and whine for the rest of your life.

        There are choices in life and I’m glad I followed my fathers example and both my kids have followed mine by and large. My daughter has no problem buying second hand furniture and neither does my son and they both have modest homes.

  • MrJones

    There’s a huge amount of violence in and around the schools that the media won’t report for the usual reason.

    The concern over appearance is related to the bullying.

    • Gilbert White

      Huge amount of sexual violence by blacks on our blue eyed blond young children the authorities do not report along with dinner money muggings.

  • justejudexultionis

    Stupid article. The young are miserable because there are prospects are utterly dismal in terms of employment, housing, financial security etc, thanks in large part to the economic incompetence of the so-called baby boomers and their suicidal doctrine of ‘tolerance’ and multiculturalism. Social cohesion and civic responsibility have been eroded by extreme Thatcherite Mammon-worship and uncontrolled mass immigration, leaving young people with little to look forward to other than seeing their own freedoms eroded through blackmail and intimidation by Islamic bigots and Eastern European economic migrants.

    • cartimandua

      pithily put but rather true.

  • aspeckofboggart

    Mr Chancellor,
    This reminds me of something that was said long ago by some German: the English are the only people on earth whose sole object in life is the pursuit of happiness.

  • SidneyBung

    We have an education system that fails to prepare youngsters for the real world – they come out of school having never been told they are wrong, never to have lost or been on a losing side and always encouraged to think they are the best at everything and that nothing is ever their fault regardless of their actions – is it any wonder they are miserable when faced with the shock that is ‘the real world’ – an environment that can be ruthless and if you are not up to scratch and prepared for the knocks and failures in life and learn from those failures then the competition out their will eat you alive. I fear for a young generation unable to cope with the negative aspects of everyday living – they have been brainwashed into believing that they will coast through life without a hitch – they will always win, they will always be accepted, they will always be absolved of any blame because nothing is ever their fault – basically, they’ve been lied to and their brains cannot compute why real life does not match what they have been indoctrinated with at school.

  • Guest

    Might be because they are starting to feel like strangers in their own land and perhaps they also fear the religious turmoil that’s going to erupt across their neighbourhoods,towns and cities not to mention the rest of Europe within their lifetime.

    • ViolinSonaten b minor.

      You sound like Dogsnob- is misery contagious?
      Oh for goodness sake, this doom mongering is tiresome, I’ve been told there are immigrants from the tiniest of Cornish fishing villages to the local farm Cambridgeshire
      and a few on the Yorkshire Dales. All a major deception there are some in the North
      and parts of London.
      People are gentle souls who want to get on with their own lives, not running around having a revolution. Its best to leave the warfare to the military- you’d get into trouble
      with a tank, now wouldn’t you. And I just cant see that happening here anyway.

  • simon t

    Though I often question the integrity of charities which often publish things like this on purpose in the idea of funding and media attention, we have our media to blame for any misery which does exist in our children. With TV and films which glamorise looking perfect, acting like an adult well before your time (and as a result adding adult pressures on to children) and yes, the internet, which is a breeding ground of negativity, which all children have constant (and often unmoderated) access too.

  • rtj1211

    There is of the possibility that it is nothing to do with smart phones, rather the emotional illiteracy of the English which deprives children of familial warmth, unconditional validation and safety to explore the private world of emotions.

    I experienced none of that in 17 years growing up in England and received more than enough living abroad. This happened 3 times in different European countries and was also experienced with foreign colleagues working or studying in the UK.

    I am not saying I am right, I am proposing an equally likely hypothesis, which posits the CONSEQUENCE that having given up on emotionally illiterate humans, young people seek solace, validation or escape through smart phones.

    My hypothesis predicts that removing smart phones will not make children happier, whereas sending some abroad may be the solution. A combination experiment requires geographical and smart phone parameters, of course.

    There may be a combination of both factors involved…..

  • Germainecousin

    I think it is very sad that so many people are willing to say such rotten, mean spirited things about their own young people. Is it any wonder that young people are unhappy? How many of them have ever experienced peace of mind? The country they live in appears to be out of control, a truly frightening cult looks to be on the brink of taking the land over. The government agencies promote a culture of death, kill the unborn and inspire the old to die rather than risk being a burden. A Christian heritage routinely pissed on by the media. There are no handrails for the young, is it any wonder they are miserable. What a future awaits them.

  • Andy JS

    Britain is the only place in the world where large numbers of adults actively dislike their own young people as a general rule. If you go to to other countries like France, Denmark, Italy the first thing you notice is how 99% of adults have a positive attitude towards young people unless they’ve specifically done something which merits disapproval. In this country a lot of adults, especially those without children, regard young people as a bit of a nuisance just for existing (to put it mildly), and they’re often completely indiscriminate in the way they apply this dislike. For example it’s quite common for an older person to have a bad encounter with one particular young person and then blame every other young person they come into contact with that day for the way the one person behaved. I used to notice this all the time when I was younger.

  • Teacher

    We brought our two children up in a bubble in the 1990’s. We sent them to prep schools where most of the teachers were proper grown ups:- kindly, well informed, strict and funny. The other kids were a bit of a bother as many of them were ridiculously rich and were stupidly indulged (during the yoyo craze one had a £40 version). However, their parents largely supported the traditional schooling for which we were all paying so much so they had to conform to school rules. We also laid down the law at home and brooked no nonsense. And we created a jolly ‘Famous Five’ old fashioned atmosphere where playing, toys, games, books, adventures and fun were the order of the day. We eschewed the fashion and narcissism that are doing so much damage to today’s children.

    Our children never suspected that the horrors of twenty-first century childhood lurked until they hit secondary school (both went to state grammars) and by then they were pretty thick skinned. We let them have phones but not smart phones, just the stupid, unfashionable sorts which made phone calls.

    I pity today’s children with their self obsessed depression but cannot help thinking it has a lot to do with the parents’ tacit consent and with the prevailing ethos of liberal parenting.