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Teens Should be Celebrated Not Demonised After the Riots

Posted: 16/09/2011 01:00

Now I'm a pretty happy person, but there are a few things that make me angry. One of these was the sweeping generalisation and negative portrayal of many young people following the recent riots in England.

Everyone seemed to be asking why teenagers were revolting.

I work at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra and next year we are holding a huge concert on the Hackney marshes ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. Last week I met with the Chief Executive of Hackney Council, Tim Shields, who told me that only 20% of the people arrested in connection with the unrest in his area were under the age of 18. When I told a friend this they said that was because young people can run faster. But, joking aside, it is a fact that I didn't hear in the analysis of what happened.

On Tuesday, a gang of teenagers descended on City Hall in London. Some wore hoodies, others were dressed smartly. But they all had one thing in common - they had all come together to talk about their hopes and fears for the future and did so with great passion and integrity.

It was Radio 1's Big Conversation. An event which, in partnership with The Prince's Trust, V Inspired and the British Youth Council, saw seventy young people from around the country and from different backgrounds meet up and speak directly to politicians, heads of business and leaders of youth organisations, and discuss what mattered to them in 2011.

Each group was given a topic to discuss and feed back. The topics included work and careers, education, advice and media portrayal of young people. Some very interesting observations and ideas came out of the session - such as making financial education compulsory in schools, creating more independent careers services for young people and even the idea of young people taking over newspapers and news programmes for one day.

We also had young people from around the UK getting involved via social networking platforms with their input and ideas. We will use these ideas to inform our social action programming for young people over the next 12 months.

Radio 1 reaches the ears of nearly twelve million people in the UK. I believe that, with that power, comes a responsibility. Yes, we will inform listeners about great new music and we can entertain them with the best DJ's but we must also educate.

However, I think that education is twofold. We will continue to give advice and help young people about the issues that concern them via programmes like The Surgery, but we also owe it to them to educate the rest of the population about the positive things that they do through events like Radio 1's Teen Awards.

In a couple of weeks time I will be standing side of stage at Wembley Arena watching bands perform to an audience of nine thousand 14 to 17 year olds at Radio 1's Teen Awards. Amongst the music and entertainment stars winning awards for best band or song, will be three 'Teen Heroes'.

These are inspiring young people who have done something positive in their community, raised money for a charity or overcome adversity in their lives. Over eight hundred people have been nominated by their peers for these awards and we will be telling their stories on stage and on Radio 1.

I hope that Radio 1's Big Conversation and the Teen Awards will become annual events that allow us to find out what great things young people are doing in our society, to celebrate them and, most importantly, give them a voice.

One of the influential adults who took part, Jamal Edwards, the founder of the UK's largest youth media channel SB.TV, is just 21 years old. He started his own business aged just 16 and has already been tipped as one of the UK's top young entrepreneurs. Summing up he said, "When I was at school I had nothing like this. Hopefully Radio 1 will make a change and it will snowball'!" Hopefully it will.

For further information about BBC Radio 1's Teen Awards to go www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/teenawards