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Young lives: is now a good time to be young?
Young lives: is now a good time to be young?

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5 Teenage bedrooms

In much of the early studies of young people’s sub-cultures (Willis, 1977) the focus was on boys and young men in schools, the streets or the workplace. Angela McRobbie (2000) criticised this work for excluding young women and sidelining their experiences. McRobbie suggested young women were invisible to the researchers because their social life was more likely to be centred on their bedrooms, away from the gaze of researchers who were mainly young-ish men who explored a world familiar to themselves – schools, playgrounds, street corners and workplaces, but neglected the more domestic sphere of home life.

The next activity builds on McRobbie’s insights by examining the new spaces of teenage life and what they can tell us about families, parenting and social values.

Activity 5 A room of my own

In this extract from the BBC radio show Thinking Allowed, two academics discuss their research about how young people’s bedrooms are central to their emerging identity and sense of space and place.

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Audio 2 Teen bedrooms
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Now read the associated webpage, Get out of my room! The truth about a teenager’s bedroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (BBC Radio 4, n.d.).

  1. Which is your favourite of the six elements defined as significant?
  2. What are the reasons discussed in the programme for the new significance of bedroom life to teenagers?

Make a note of your thoughts on the issues raised in the programme.

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The programme opens out important questions about the way ideas around young people’s bedrooms have shifted. These changes reflect, and are driven by, the way personal spaces are shaped by economic developments, and the social relations of gender and class. Even questions once associated with public spaces, such as young people’s involvement in crime, have become tangled in these changes. According to some criminologists (Pitts, 2013), the decline in recorded levels of youth crime may be at least partially attributable to boys and young men spending so much more of their time indoors, in bedrooms, among the adrenalin-fuelled thrills of gaming consoles. These, it is argued, have replaced the edgy thrills and status rewards of stealing cars and other forms of street crime with their virtual equivalent. The researchers provide insights into the ways social order and social values are played out in teenage bedrooms. The domestic sphere has been transformed, partially by electronics, but also by the decline of public spaces where teenagers can mix and play safely and collectively, such as youth clubs.