From time to time, we hear of a ‘game’ that is doing the rounds with our young people. These ‘games’ come and go and most are part of what it means to be a teenager. Most are possibly fairly harmless and apart from the occasional injury, no harm is done, other than to the nerves of the teachers on duty in our schools. However, every so often we hear of a game that is potentially fatal.
The report in today’s NZ Herald about a young boy from an Auckland Secondary school is an example of what can go terribly wrong. He is lucky to be alive and the ‘headlocking’ game must be stamped out. It is another example of the more extreme risk taking behaviours that teenagers like to be involved in. They may even be pressured to take part, in order to earn ‘kudos’ and gain acceptance.
How we handle issues like this is crucial to their being eliminated from our playgrounds and schools. Do we make a big fuss of it in assemblies and other mass gatherings? Do we highlight it in the media? A similar argument can be made for the problem of how much we discuss suicide. So there is a continuum about how we handle sensitive and dangerous issues.
One of the best ways to get any message through with teenagers is for them to take some ownership. Firstly, gather a group of ‘influential’ or ‘in-group’ young people. You may be surprised as to whom the students are in such a group--- the best way--- ask the kids.
Take this group and present them with the information around the issue, in this case, ‘Headlocking.’ Let them have a discussion with minimal adult interference. I am not saying --- leave them to it. They will know who they want to be the ‘adult’ convener. You may get a few surprises there. (That person can also have some ‘supervision’ to make sure things go ‘safely and appropriately.’
Encourage this group to do some research and then invite them to come up with ‘how they wish to get their collective message across about the issue.
If the school has a radio station (yes some do or are planning such a venture) or any other way of selling the message, then use it. Don’t forget that the group will become ‘ambassadors’ of common sense on a lot of issues.
I believe that such an approach will be far more effective than the ‘force-feeding’ we so often use, with the less than good results.
An example of such an approach is the PSSP programme in Auckland schools.
I shall write about that in another blog.