Understanding today’s Teenagers: Child of Our Time returns to BBC One

Child of Our Time: BBC ONE, 9pm, 3rd & 4th April

Since the year 2000, The Open University and the BBC have followed the lives of 25 children born across the UK, to find out what makes us who we are. Now, the hugely popular series Child of Our Time returns to the BBC on 3rd and 4th April, with the children turning 16 and navigating the perils and pleasures of adolescence.

Professor Robert Winston and Professor Tanya Byron chart their incredible transformation since the last series, exploring how their changing brains and bodies cope with changing times, and what role their families and friends play in their lives now they are on the threshold of adulthood.

Social media: the good and the bad

The digital communications revolution has opened up the world of social networking to our teenagers, something many of the parents in the series are concerned about. For the programme, the teenagers’ social media use was monitored over a week, finding that girls spent on average 4 hours a day on their phones, twice as much as the boys, and that the top 20% were dealing with over 400 messages a day.

It sounds overwhelming, yet Naomi Holford, an expert in teenage relationships, is one of The Open University’s academic advisers to the series and says there is a positive side to social media use:

“The programme looks at social media in the context of our teenagers’ whole lives, and we can see it’s embedded in everything they do. It illustrates the different ways people use social media; for instance Rhianna, who's very creative, positively uses social media to find connections across the country and build her own community of friends who share her interests.”

The Open University has developed a series of free online courses, which explores how people can use social media safely.

Changing pressures for today’s teenagers

Society’s attitudes and beliefs towards teenagers have changed over time, and the pressures today’s young people are under are very different to those generations ago. Naomi Holford continued:

“There are times in history where teenagers had much more responsibility, for instance getting married earlier and going out to work. Young people today still face a lot of pressures; the family environment, changing technologies and educational aspirations - our teenagers are in their GCSE year – all play a part in shaping the lives of these young people. But Child of our Time shows us teenagers' resilience as well, and their coping strategies for what life throws at them..”

The changing demands on teenagers is something that’s explored in a free booklet The Open University has produced to go with the series. Young People, Changing Times can be ordered by calling 0300 303 2061 or ordered online here.


Learn More:

The Open University offers a range of qualifications for those interested in childhood and youth studies.


Programme Credits:

Commissioned by: Dr Caroline Ogilvie

Academic Consultants: Tyrrell Golding, Dr Naomi Holford and Andy Rixon

Media Fellow: Fernando Rosell-Aquilar

Broadcast Project Manager: Julia Burrows

Online Project Producer: Freyja Taylor-Law