I feel lucky to be from the last generation of teenagers that lived without mobile phones. We were on the cusp of two worlds... as children without the internet our adult lives soon became internet based. The introduction of mobile/smart phones brought with it the smooth takeover of internet based communication. I remember being 16 and swearing that I never wanted to own a mobile phone. At 18 I moved to London to study and my Mum gave me one...rarely using it, possibly not even on a daily basis. Was moving out and getting a phone a form of a Rite of Passage?!
As children my generation had the freedom to go out and be untraceable...
Growing up in a village in the 1990's we spent a lot of time away from adults in the wild making our own worlds with no adult control, no satnav, no location devices or possibility of text messaging or 4G. We were told not to come back too late and our parents trusted us and the world. We roamed for miles away from our houses, exploring the landscape of rabbit warrens, woods, hills, rivers and springs. This sense of freedom and space to grow with my peers or alone gave me an important foundation of self reliance and a connection to the natural world that I carried with me to adulthood.
As teenagers we went to schools where bullying was prevalent but when we went home it stayed at school...there were no online forums or Facebook, snapchat or Instagram, internet gaming...at the end of my school years we had no more than one hour classroom time on a computer per week. And home computers were game consoles where you could play Super Mario Kart or WWF usually as a two player with a friend or sibling physically in the room with you.
I never experienced a Rite of Passage. The closest experience to one was when my period started. I remember wanting it to arrive because to me it meant I was no longer a little child, I was a step closer to being an independent woman! I have an older sister and she told me a lot about what to expect. My mum was also supportive and they gave me sanitary towels, told me about tampons, that my body was getting ready for the potential of having babies and then that was that. There was no significant transition and definitely no ceremony or sacred space. The internet didn't exist to personally research and I'm not sure I'd have even known what it was I wanted to look up. If I had a daughter I would like to create some kind of ceremony to mark what I believe to be an important transitioning time, and it seems that there is a growing popularity in celebrating the menarche today with mothers creating their own ceremonies based on red tent philosophies and women's circles. I'm sure that the statistics of anxiety related to the menarche could be greatly reduced by a positive Rite of Passage.
How are teenagers dealing with the pressures of social media and the modern world? With no clear Rite of Passage and a lack of community, teenagers resort to creating their own. There are many studies suggesting that gangs are formed through lack of a structured community supported rite of passage. Gangs and knife crime amongst inner city teenagers are on the rise, whilst community centres are forced to close down due to lack of government funding. Mental Health and self harm abuse issues in girls aged 11-16 are also on the rise.
I am interested in answering the questions:
How could a Rite of Passage help a modern society?
Is there a place for Rites of Passage for girls and boys today?
How do they already exist in this culture?
What could we learn from other cultures?
How can a modern RoP be socially inclusive?
|making fire at forest school|