The Sunday Times says

Flip side of letting boys be boys

Weekends typically offer children licence to be themselves, which often means less adult intervention in the culture that shapes childhood preoccupations and how children interact with one another. During the week, that culture is partly constrained in schools by the institutional desire to socialise and educate the young for roles in an adult world. But left on their own, children instinctively "pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they do, to know what they know", as well-known psychologist Peter Gray noted.

Parents might be divided over some aspects of teen culture. For instance, the birthday ritual called "taupok", which involves boys playfully piling on top of a target, might be deemed "childish" in both senses of the word. Seen as behaviour appropriate to children, one might let boys be boys. But viewed as something that is silly and immature, one would try to avert potential injury.

When schoolboy culture perpetuates violence, should a firmer line be drawn? According to gender equality group Aware, 82 per cent of boys surveyed, aged 17 to 18, said they committed physical violence against other boys during their secondary school years, while almost three-quarters said they were on the receiving end. The scale of the punching, shoving and spitting surely calls for remedial action on the part of adults.

Aware thinks teenage boys are "facing pressures to be manly" which is reflected in almost all boys showing or experiencing "violence or gender-policing for being gay or girly". It is an inescapable fact that apart from violence and gender stereotyping, prurience, bullying, commercialism and technology have all now invaded teen culture. One would want them to enjoy their adolescence without being subject to a "Big Brother" gaze, but clearly it would not be in teens' best interests if adults simply looked the other way.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'Flip side of letting boys be boys'. Print Edition | Subscribe