My 12 your old son badgered me into letting him go to the Teen Fusion disco last month. I was reluctant but he was so excited at the prospect of going with all his friends that I gave in and let him go.
My reluctance was because I think he's too young to be out until 10.15pm taking part in what is essentially adult entertainment. And now that he has been and I've witnessed the children coming out of the club at the end of the evening I'm pretty disappointed - not in the kids but in what we adults come up with as 'entertainment' for them.
I'm not knocking the people that organise the disco - I'm sure they are doing their best and they are organising these events for all the right reasons.
But it boils down to this. We adults are offering our young people a cultural, social experience. And what does that constitute? Three hours in a deafening environment with recorded music made by adults. Very little opportunity to interact with each other and nothing uplifting about the evening at all.
My son smelt faintly of smoke when he came out, which he claims was because some of the older children were smoking in the smoking area and he was hanging out with them. Smoking area? At a teenagers' disco? Why??
When he and his friend came out they were wan and exhausted. I watched the girls coming out and my heart bled for them. Most of them - probably aged between 12 and 14 - were dressed in the skimpiest of clothes and staggered around on high heels. I hestitate to say what they really looked like because I don't want to insult them or their parents, but it's not flattering.
I know there is so much commercial pressure on all of us and particularly on children as they reach their teens. There are so many reasons why the kids want to dress and behave as they do. But they're not good reasons. It's all driven by commercial pressure and nothing to do with helping our youngsters develop into young adults with self-respect and creativity, individuality or joy.
As a parent, I so want to find other, more authentic cultural influences and inspirations for children and teenagers and I'm sure many others feel the same. It just seems such a mountain to climb and to be honest I have no clue as to what we can provide collectively apart from what our 'popular culture' vomits up for us.
So, what is to be done, by us, the adults? Perhaps the Astor Theatre could widen the cultural offer to young people in Deal? Even a disco with a live band would be a step forward, especially if they were young musicians. I don't know what the answer is but really if a pared down nightclub experience is the best we the adults can offer our young people, we really should feel ashamed and ask ourselves why.