THERE are so many reasons I’m glad I grew up before Instagram and Facebook existed.
Going to an all-girls boarding school when I was a teenager was tough enough anyway.
My school was in the middle of nowhere.
The food was terrible and there was nothing to do at weekends except watch Dallas on a tiny black and white TV — with 30 other people.
But I never worried about my weight or my looks, partly because there was no one to impress.
The outside world was on the other side of firmly locked doors.
These days there is no such thing as a barrier between kids and the outside world.
Wherever you are geographically, you can have 24-hour access guaranteed.
And I think there is a direct link between that and new research showing that a quarter of girls and nearly one in ten boys show signs of depression at the age of 14.
There’s always been pressure on women to look a certain way.
It used to be thin, like Kate Moss.
Now we all need to aspire to an unfeasibly large bottom, like Kim Kardashian’s.
But that pressure used to come mainly from fashion magazines.
Now teenage girls are surrounded by images of perfection all the time, not just of models — but of their friends too.
Because, thanks to filters and photoshop, anyone can retouch their look into “perfection” before sending it out into the social media ether.
So now there’s this ludicrous obsession with selfies, and a whole industry of gadgets and apps designed to help you get the right angle and pout.
The selfie culture is turning a whole generation into narcissists.
They are all too self-conscious to just relax and have fun — in case an un-retouched image of them doing so makes it on to Instagram.
But also — crucially — when we’re surrounded by such impossible standards, of course we feel inadequate when we don’t meet them.
Of course we feel not good enough. Of course we feel depressed. In the meantime, body shaming and bullying are rife.
Social media gives people such easy access that this problem has never been more ferocious, in your face and more instant.
And the internet offers a cloak of anonymity which seems to remove inhibition more effectively than a couple of Babychams.
If they post a picture that doesn’t get 100 likes in the first ten minutes, they’ve “failed”.
If it actually gets negative comments it’s enough for them to go into hiding.
Their self-esteem is directly linked to external opinion.
And all too often it’s their appearance they seek approval on.
When it comes to aspirations, we are asking our girls to aim too low.
Who could blame them if they feel dispirited at how much time they are supposed to devote to trying to achieve a big a**e. How depressing is that?
All the work we have done as feminists and we are still being valued, mainly, for the way we look.
There aren’t enough decent role models for our girls.
Reality TV is littered with women with “perfect” bodies.
“Extreme surgery” — whether having ribs removed or fat injected into their bodies to create cartoon-like images bearing little resemblance to the bodies they were born with — has become positively mainstream.
Social media offers an irresistible window into other people’s lives and it’s almost impossible to turn away.
But there’s nothing like looking at someone’s edited — and gilded — version of their life to realise that your own life is lacking.
Maybe one answer is to take the phones away, but you might as well cut off their arms and legs.
So the question is this: How can we inject some balance into young people’s lives and give them other aspirations?
How do we give them self-esteem? Help them to value themselves for their ability rather than their looks? Make them more thick-skinned about criticism?
How about this.
Encourage them to do some voluntary work, think about other people — and leave their phone at home.
Help them to do some work experience, find a mentor and — crucially — discover a sense of purpose.
You can’t fight the tide, but you can turn away from it and try to go the other direction.
MAMMA Mia! Sue Radford has just given birth to baby number TWENTY – and is only 42.
Just imagine: 20 lots of morning sickness, 20 labours and births, 20 terrible twos, 20 lots of potty training, 20 moody teenagers . . .
Oh my goodness, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
His eldest son, Paolo, has been accused of being a member of a Chinese organised-crime syndicate that allegedly smuggled in a huge supply of drugs from China.
Mr Duterte apparently told his 42-year-old son: “My orders are to kill you if you are caught, and I will protect the police who kill you.”
I’m a big believer in putting your money where your mouth is – but that’s a bit extreme.
DID you hear about Ben Farina and Clare Moran who are billing the 80 guests they are inviting to their wedding – £150 per person plus an extra £50 for kids?
I don’t want to rain on their marquee, but wouldn’t it be better to scale it back – have a few friends and a nice meal rather than a three-day “dream” wedding that guests pay to attend?
I know which I’d prefer to go to.
PEOPLE often ask me what happens in the Lords.
I tell them that the serious issues of the country get debated.
If they want an example, I tell them about an article for debate recently published by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Britain’s Demographic Challenge.
It sounds dry but it points out some terrifying statistics.
In the year ending June 2016, the UK population had increased by more than half a million – equivalent of 1,474 per day, 900 of which were from net migration (half from the EU, half from elsewhere).
To house these new arrivals to the same standard as we currently enjoy, which is an average of 2.3 people per dwelling, we need 641 new dwellings every day.
That’s the equivalent to one new property every two minutes, night and day.
Given our population will increase by 9.7million over the next 25 years, that means we will need 4.25million more dwellings – plus hospitals, schools, shops etc.
That’s the equivalent to three cities the size of Manchester – a change that’s unlikely to come about without considerable strain on our society – economic, social and environmental.
All parties have preferred to look the other way on the grounds that something may “turn up”, or that it will be someone else’s problem.
The fact is, it’s a sensitive subject with a potentially considerable short-term downside so it’s easier to keep away.
But it’s not going to be someone else’s problem, it is our problem.
We know it’s going to happen so we need cross-party action to address it NOW – otherwise it will spell disaster for all of us.
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