Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teenage Mutant Mobile Monsters

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Teenage Mutant Mobile Monsters

Article excerpt


THE problem with surveys is that they are carried out in isolation, the findings delivered without any attempt at context. Thus, the announcement by a bunch of pointy-heads from Nottingham Trent University that boy-children today are nine inches taller, and have more mobile phones, than their ancestors in 1837 throws up more questions than it answers.

Among various other, more tedious facts (kids today prefer cats to gerbils, art to maths, and Manchester United to Aston Villa, ho hum), it is the height-technology equation that really cries out for explanation.

Speculation is the enemy of fact but sometimes it's unavoidable. When it was "proved" that snorers were more likely than non-snorers to get run over by cars, it was clear that snorers were being mown down by their spouses in fits of exhausted road-rage. When two separate recent surveys "revealed" that Britain had shockingly high rates of both underage drinking and underage pregnancy, it was plain to everyone but the researchers concerned that the two statistics were related.

Similar, obvious conclusions can be drawn from the Nottingham study. The first is that, since the survey took place over the internet, the finding that 60 per cent of the youngsters polled have access to the internet at home is probably somewhat meaningless. The second is that, far from giving us brain tumours, mobile phones - 41 per cent of the 50,000 young respondents own one - are clearly breeding a race of giants.

In another 164 years, according to my calculations, the average teenage boy will be well over nine feet tall, which will necessitate a massive building programme of high-ceilinged housing. Girls, who are growing at a slightly less rapid rate, will have constant cricks in their necks, and will assess boys on the attractiveness of their nostrils. Around 82 per cent of all kids will have mobile phones (the other 18 per cent will form a technophobe pygmy underclass), and all of them will have one-and-a-half computers. Of course, mobiles will get bigger again because the mouths of these huge children will be further away from their ears.

You may argue that other factors - pleurisy, bathtub gin, being put up chimneys and not having network coverage - contributed to the relative shortness of early-Victorian children and their failure to adopt technology.

Well, go ahead and mock. Come the year 2165 my theories will be vindicated, and the Nottingham pointy-heads will be forgotten. I've seen the future: it's huge, it's 15 years old, and it's shouting "I'm on the train W arh orse on the w arp ath JUST when we all thought that the mad dictator of the Gulf War had finally been silenced by the weight of international opinion, along comes another bloodthirsty, megalomaniac outburst. …

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