Paris Brown: Understanding Yooff Culture?

Our Youth?

What was supposed to be a monumental public relations coups in terms of youth engagement, but probably also designed (in part) as mitigation against the much maligned post of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), is rapidly turning into a political nightmare.

But is all the vociferous comment little more than a storm in a teacup, one being fuelled by the usual British media frenzy?

At the beginning of this month Paris Brown from Sheerness, was appointed to work for Ann Barnes, Kent’s PCC who incidentally, is one of the few supposedly independent of any political party. Miss Brown’s role is to represent young people across the county of Kent and, “to build a bridge between the world of young people and policing.” – A wholly admirable sentiment I think you would agree?

3-Apr-13: This will be a real hands-on role and I’ll be relying on Paris to guide my office on how we can deliver a better service for all young people in the county and tackle youth offending…(Ann Barnes)

But, in less than a week since Ms Barnes appointed her new Yooff  Ambassador, it seems the incumbent of that post is likely to lose her new job; at least if the Mail on Sunday have anything to do with it (see below).

7-Apr-13: Paris Brown, 17, posted violent, racist and anti-gay comments on Twitter – along with foul-mouthed rants boasting about her sex life and drug-taking…(

The PCC has obviously been quick to protect her new teen-age role-model(?) and employee. That in it self makes a refreshing change within policing circles but that as they say, is another story! The content of Ms Barnes’ mostly contrived damage limitation media release (see here) was to be expected however she has some valid points.

The idea of a Youth Commissioner was born out of my long experience in the world of Policing, as a teacher and as a parent. There is a growing gap between younger people and the Police and others agencies of law enforcement. Young people are too often demonised by certain elements in the press and are often criticised mercilessly…(Ann Barnes)

The part of that release that interested me was the (probably also mostly contrived) response quote from Miss Brown herself. Given her (alleged) previous views and comments posted within social media, are the following words the ones which would actually be used by a member of our predominant yooff culture?

I deeply apologise for any offence caused by my use of inappropriate language and for any inference of inappropriate views. I am not homophobic, racist or violent and am against the taking of drugs. If I’m guilty of anything it’s showing off and wildly exaggerating on Twitter and I am very ashamed of myself, but  I can’t imagine that I’m the only teenager to have done this…(Paris Brown)

After their sustained attack on Miss Brown’s suitability for the role, at least The Mail were happy to report that she is probably (but still sadly, mostly in a disparaging manner) actually indicative of most teenagers today. The PCC also pointed out that Miss Brown is wholly representative of today’s teen generation, which is why she was chosen for the role.

Whether or not she [Brown] is actually “ashamed of these comments” remains to be seen but as the PCC rightly points out and I agree; ” I would bet you that any parent who accessed a Twitter or Facebook account would be surprised and perhaps shocked at some of the stuff that’s on it because that’s what kids do.”

The PCC is also right when she says; “they like to impress their mates” – a factor which is all part of their struggle to try to find their place in our society. A process made increasingly difficult with the constant vilification they tend to receive these days.

Paris may have “been found guilty of boasting” in many of the messages she posted to her social media accounts however; is she really guilty of an offence here? She may have (unintentionally I hope) offended someone however; is she actually guilty of the bigotry, homophobia or the promotion of alcohol and substance misuse that The Mail seeks to imply?

If she is actually guilty of anything it’s probably just an acute case of immature stupidity! But I’m also concerned that we may be expecting a little too much of our youth sometimes; are we really suggesting that our mostly free-thinking ‘kids’ should be totally constrained by the same levels of political correctness often endured by the rest of us?

The political correctness of modern-day society that has been a thorn in the side of many policing matters for years now. A decade on since the then Home Office minister John Denham, was criticised for using the phrase “nitty gritty” at the annual Police Federation conference, because of race relations ‘rules’ (see here).

Thankfully we have moved on a little since then. However, there is still a general perception that things haven’t changed that much during the ensuing years, despite some sensible and pertinent comments to the debate at the time (see below).

As long as political correctness stands for self-examination, then it is nothing short of a duty in a responsible society. Where it amounts to the repression of freedom of thought, it is very much the opposite…(Andy D – UK)

Double talk, double think results in lies and deception. Sweep away PC once and for all…(A Social Worker)

All that said and far too often, we still have a tendency to place expectations upon our children, usually without providing them with all the ‘tools’ to adequately complete the tasks we set them. At least not to our ‘expected’ standards. But, as in this case, our ‘standards’ are not actually replicated in many of our younger citizens. The things that we adults believe to be ‘correct’ and ‘right’ (by our ‘standards’) aren’t aways necessarily perceived in the same manner by our youth.

Given the predominant journalistic methodology of The Mail for marginalisation and/or exclusion of our youth from society, it’s hardly surprising that they chose to vilify Paris Brown. Stupidly and naively, she presented them with an ideal and fortuitous opportunity. But we should all remember and consider the original raison d’être behind her appointment i.e. “to build a bridge between the world of young people and policing.”

Paris Brown may (allegedly) drink a little too much, she may be a little loud and in your face. She may be a little too sexually active for someone of such ‘tender’ years and she may say things on Twitter and Facebook that some find inappropriate or offensive however; she IS (like it or not) indicative of today’s youth. But also, unlike many of her peers, perhaps she actually sees a way forward to change adult perception about our youth?

In addition to that, Ann Barns appears to be actually trying to understand the problems surrounding youth offending and anti-social behaviour, all be it a little late. Hopefully she is also trying to do something constructive to combat these problems? Can the same really be said about the rest of us?

6 thoughts on “Paris Brown: Understanding Yooff Culture?

  1. Really interesting article and subsequent debate. But firstly a warning! Don’t just believe everything that the good Doctor tells you, it is his own opinion based on his research and delivered with his bias. Those of us that are practitioners (and looked at his methodologies)may well have differing opinions. And no i am not a left wing, tree hugging Guardianista, far from it. Back to the article, my first 2 thoughts when reading the article in the paper were, “Let he is without sin cast the first stone”, quickly followed by ” there but for the grace of God go I ” except we did not have social media when growing up. There are a number of salient points made by all those that have contributed to this debate, and I would just like to put a tuppence worth in, Silly girl? Yes. Contrite? maybe. Stereotypical yoof? I don’t think so. Remembering that some of the comments were posted only a few months ago, is this what the Kent parents want representing their youngsters? I doubt it. £15,000 salary? Your having a Steffi. But hey ho they say it takes a thief etc. Laughable. Slainte.


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  3. I think there is always a danger that we say each generation is worse. Most of the teenagers I see today are probably more sensible and mature that when I was younger and I’ve heard people my parents age talk about how when they were younger a favorite pastime was to eat in a cafe or restaurant and then ‘do a runner’ – Kids these days just take pictures of their food. The problem Sociologists have with this lot is that they can’t be romanticised at politically oppositional outsiders like the punks, or stylishly cool like the mods – they’re all basically high on a blend of social media and mainstream commercialism. For the media it’s the same old moral panic though.

    But I digress a bit there. When it comes to poor old Paris, I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for her – after all aren’t we always complaining that politicians are some kind of freakish other who bear no resemblance to the rest of us. I don’t think she’s helped by the £15 000 a year she’s reportedly getting – would it be as newsworthy if it was a voluntary post, or a £5 000 a year part-time gig? Undoubtedly she’s been stupid, but like she says she’s just young. Give her a chance – and a paycut – I say. For the job she’s supposed to do some Tory-boy type is hardly going to build rapport with the kind of people she’s meant to be reaching out to.


  4. Steve,
    I too am “sceptical” about what Ms Brown can actually bring to the process of “bridging the gap” indeed; I fully support the ethos of Dr Sigman and, although I haven’t read the book, “The Spoiled Generation” makes some valid points.
    Previously unaware of Sigman’s work, I have to say I totally agree with him in that; we as parents (and/or pillars of authority) have shot ourselves in the foot with the predominent liberalistic nurturing of our youth over recent decades.
    If standards aren’t set (and enforced), can we realistically expect our ‘yooff’ to understand boundaries of acceptable behaviour in society?


    1. We’re singing off the same hymn sheet Dave and truth be known I believe there are many thousands if not millions who share our views. Unfortunately policing & justice are not the only two areas of society in obvious need of reform. Education, Health & Immigration are all pieces of this fragile jigsaw that is the UK community.They all impact upon each other too, with the UK taxpayer getting the rough end of any kind of service overall.

      The youth have their part to play in all of this, both as a group in their own right and as a subset of each of the public sectors. We are a long way off seeing ferel youngsters making positive selfless contributions that might help restore our belief.


  5. In a book published almost two years ago called “The Spoiled Generation” psychologist Dr Aric Sigman explored the erosion of discipline, respect and civility in the youth of the UK and the negaive effect it is having on society. I first posted an artcle about this in September 2009.

    Dr Sigman accurately captured the growing sense of unease felt by a large percentage of the UK public. He said “Children of the spoilt generation are used to having their demands met by their parents and others in authority, and that in turn makes them unprepared for the realities of adult life. This has consequences in every area of society, from the classroom to the workplace, the streets to the criminal courts and rehabilitation clinics”.

    He suggested that children & young people’s rights must be curtailed and a firm hand is urgently needed if they are to be properly guided into adulthood.

    Dr Sigman, a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, continued: “Authority is a basic health requirement in children’s lives. But, while children have become increasingly ‘empowered’ in terms of legislation and rights, far from being protected, they are actually suffering in ways that could never have been foreseen.”

    The police see the consequences of the “Spoiled Generation” every day on the street of the UK. – A 44% rise in assaults on police by children is surely a symptom of a much greater disease that will follow if not treated fast.

    Respect for law and order and authority is fading rapidly as parents and schools fail in their duty to their children. The criminal justice system including the police are then just one of the groups of agencies that deal with the fall out. The empowering of children, however well intended, has served to undermine the authority of parents, teachers, police officers and other authority figures.

    If the Government are to start the task of fixing our society, then surely there is no better place to start than here. By instilling some firm handed forgotten disciplines within the “spoiled sector” of our youth, there will at least be a glimmer of hope that the UK may once again be a pleasant place to live.


    His words were indeed a wise prohecy of what was to come and what we witnessed last summer is a direct result of the spoiled youth among our communities, lawless and totally lacking in respect.

    What we are witnessing is the result of a society in complete decay as a result of a small minority of our community. I wish it were as simple as saying they have lost their moral compass. In fact many have not just lost it, they have smashed it to smithereens and now happily grind the broken pieces into the faces of the hard working, law abiding folk with their wanton, greedy activity. We are in the midst of frightening times. The global economy is in ever greater danger, with billions of pounds wiped from the value of Britain’s top companies on a daily basis.

    On the streets of London, mobs engaged looting and arson, with the violence fast spreading across the capital and to other major cities.

    What began in Tottenham spawned an orgy of wanton greed where opportunistic thugs smash shop windows in broad daylight for a pair of designer trainers or a flat-screen TV.

    Arrest figures indicate many of those involved were mere teenagers, who view looting as a game to be played out over the internet and Twitter. They have zero respect for the law or the livelihoods and homes they are destroying.

    To blame the cuts is immoral and cynical. This has nothing to do with cuts. This was criminality – pure and simple – by yobs who have nothing but contempt for decent, law-abiding people.

    So, forgive me if I sound sceptical of the alleged role of this young lady: “to build a bridge between the world of young people and policing.”

    What is wrong with some of the youth (and I stress some, not all) is a belief that the rest of us owe them a living and a future. The problem is that many see that as an unpaid debt, and they will reclaim what they are owed by fair means or foul.

    There are plenty of opportunities for youngsters to thrive if only they are prepared to accept the fact that nothing is given for nothing. Hard work, discipline and a moral compass that doesn’t offend the rest of the community is a good start.



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