In the United Kingdom the term ‘young person’ is defined by the Child and Young Persons Act 1933, a “young person” means a person who has attained the age of fourteen and is under the age of eighteen years”, and the Children Act 1989 and 2004 define a child as: ‘as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday”.
Language and terminology play an integral part in keeping children safe. The term ‘child’ and ‘young person’ raises the question, if a child is a child until the age of 18 years, why when a child is sometimes at their most vulnerable during their teenage years, do we refer to them as a young people? Could this impact the way a child is portrayed in relation to vulnerability?
A child’s maturity cannot be solely determined by age, therefore categorising a child as a ‘young person’ due to their age alone could place them at risk by portraying them to be more advance and mature than they actually are. Could using the term ‘young person’ be creating an ‘unconscious bias’ in relation to a child’s vulnerability and the required duty of care?
Equally, with so many children being referred to as ‘young people’ are children themselves losing their sense of childhood and feeling a pressure mature into a ‘young person’ at an earlier age? Safeguarding should not leave room for grey areas, and it is important that we continue to reflect on the language and terminology being used in practice and consider the wider impact it may have in keeping children safe. The Safeguarding Alliance will continue to refer to children, as children, as oppose to ‘young people’ as legally they are a child. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts?
TAKE CHILDHOOD THE QUIZ Looking at the concept of childhood we have put together a quiz* to examine what a child can legally do in the UK. This is a great way to get staff in your setting to think about what the this means in context to ‘keeping children safe’. *Please do not complete the quiz if you are not happy sharing your data with The Safeguarding Alliance.