I am an old man. Twenty two long years, and they’re getting even longer. The eyes of a sailor lost at sea hide in my mirror. Sunken, dishevelled and without a spark of hope. Where did that spark go? I remember back in the days when I physically jumped out of bed singing ‘It’s a beautiful day’, when I couldn’t wait to get changed out of my school uniform so I could go and play outside. I don’t know how to play anymore, and I’m seeing fewer and fewer kids on the street.

Maybe kids are changing, as I guess every generation does. But I know my sister and I, and our friends were KIDS, even up until the age of fourteen or fifteen. We threw on whatever clothes mum brought back from ASDA or the charity shop without a second thought (bar a single baggy designer hoody gifted on a birthday, worn into dust without a wash). Looking at kids today they all seem so ‘clued up’ – style, music, gadgets – which I can only attribute to their continuing exposure to the world outside of their immediate community. This of course is a result of advances in technology, and consequently, increased connectivity.  However, as the blissful ignoramus probably preached, as your knowledge expands, difficulties arise.

I know everyone’s upbringing is different, but I don’t remember too many grievances when I was young. I know a young girl that has already been affected by anxiety. And that’s a hell of a thing to have to deal with when you’re under ten years old. I can’t imagine what she’s being exposed to on the internet, and I’m not talking about adult content. I’m talking about constant exposure to advertising that is all geared towards ‘not being good enough’ or ‘not having enough’. On the TV it is much simpler. The adverts come on, you’re aware of them, and adjust accordingly. With the internet it is a much more subtle affair, particularly on websites aimed at young people.

Yes, I’m aware that advertising, marketing and the media seem to be the imperious overlords of the world, or at least the West. Yes, I know that the average person is generally exploited by capitalism, or rather by the corporate giants that are really good at capitalism. But that’s enough capitalism, I hate the word. That’s all by the by, and I don’t have an answer. What I do question is the necessity of exposing yourself to these powerful tools of manipulation when your brain is at its most fertile, and most impressionable.

It’s hard enough keeping your sanity when you try and figure it out in your early twenties, or at least my arrogance would have me believe. Or maybe I’m just an oddball, maybe there isn’t anything to ‘figure out’, maybe a lot of people don’t even bother with these questions, just get on with it. Get on with the rat race. People have for generation after generation. I mean look at those Spartan kids, they were exposed to the world pretty damn fast, and were all the better for it.

But Spartans never had to deal with a media that had the power to reach millions in an instant. Media outlets that, sadly, often seem to have an agenda other than to inform. I feel that kids being exposed to this world in such an abrupt fashion is like sending troops into no man’s land without even a gun to try and defend themselves. Like many soldiers, they’re just too young.

If you have a little brother or sister, or even children of your own, just be aware of what they’re exposing themselves to on the internet, and try to encourage them to make their own well-rounded decisions on what they think is important. Or, alternatively, get them outside and playing with bugs, whatever, but for the love of all that is holy, don’t buy them an iPhone.