LOOKING GOOD?: UK pre-teens increasingly concerned with appearance

VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digital


Increasing numbers of the United Kingdom’s pre-teens, children under thirteen years of age, are becoming concerned over their physical appearances, with the average child now worrying about how they look for ninety minutes a day, according to a study.

An astonishing 90 per cent of the study participants – sourced from different age groups – said they frequently worried about they look, as influences from media, society, picture-perfect celebrities, and the direct and indirect influences of more ‘popular’ classmates impinge on children’s body confidence at startling younger ages.



One in five surveyed teenagers claimed that they pretended to be ill in order to miss school or work due to low levels of self-confidence stemming from their appearance. The body shame even lasts into adulthood, as 86 per cent of the study’s older participants said they spend an average of one hour and thirteen minutes per day obsessing with what they see in their mirrors. The study found that most teenagers were worried about acne and ‘bad skin’, whereas adults were more concerned with weight. Both age groups were worried equally about bad hair, overall body shape and physique, along with the appearance of their stomachs. Lifestyle magazines for both men and women often devote large numbers of pages to achieving the perfect toned or flab-free stomach and chest.

Skin conditions tend to be the gripe of many people, the study found. Sixty-nine per cent of adults have been afflicted by common skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and conditions causing spots and similar. Ninety-one per cent of them had experienced breakouts of acne even in their post-teenage years.

More disturbingly, it was found that social media is increasingly harming people’s body positivity, with 71 per cent of teenagers and 53 per cent of adults feeling uncomfortable around the sharing of selfies and group photos of themselves on social media sites. Thirty-two per cent of teenagers have used filters and apps to perform virtual plastic surgery on their photos before releasing them to social media, and another 37 per cent have tried to excuse themselves from being photographed.

Outside of social media and the web, the study said that 30 per cent of adults have skipped social events due to fears about how they looked, with 17 per cent resorting to excessive amounts of make-up, 31 per cent covering up their figures with baggy clothing. Four per cent even cancelled dates over their lack of confidence in their looks

The research study was commissioned by the skincare brand Proactiv+, which surveyed 1,000 adults and 1,000 children via online survey service OnePoll. A  company spokesperson told SWNS digital: Almost everyone has concerns about their appearance at one time or another, but it’s staggering to see how young these concerns start.

“And it appears that this is a problem which doesn’t go away with age – the worries we have just change slightly instead.

“Teenagers have a lot to adjust to with puberty, a testing time at school as they approach exams and dealing with peer pressure, so the spot breakouts and acne can really affect their confidence.

“But for many these worries will also continue into adulthood leaving people really struggling with their self-esteem – especially as spots and acne are something most people only associate with the teenage years.”


“Pre-Teens Worry about their Appearance for More than 90 Minutes a Day” – SWNS digital/72Point (9 April 2017) http://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/04/pre-teens-worry-about-their-appearance-for-more-than-90-minutes-a-day/

EAST HAM RACIST ASSAULT: Three teenagers attacked outside pub

The families of three teenagers who were targeted in a racially-motivated attack outside an East Ham public house are appealing for witnesses who saw the assault, reports the Newham Recorder this week.

Stephanie Villegas and Hollie Vincent, both aged sixteen years, were walking down the High Street South, a major road linking East Ham with Canning Town, with their cousin Rohan Reda (aged 17), when two older men began hurling racist abuse at them as they walked past the White Horse pub, opposite East Ham’s Central Park. The incident occurred at around 6 pm on Thursday 11th June.

The teenagers then claimed that the two men approached them, punched them, and then threw them to the floor in the unprovoked attack.

English: East Ham High St. This is a photo of ...
English: East Ham High St. This is a photo of High St North East Ham, taken looking south towards the station. Sibley Grove is on the left. The pub on the corner is amusingly named the Overdraft Tavern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It was disgusting. We had already walked past them once”

“A little while after, we walked past them again and that’s when it started. They were older men, at least in their forties” Hollie told a reporter from the Newham Recorder. Hollie’s cousin Rohan, who is of mixed heritage, was then subjected to a racial slur.

Hollie, who had recently graduated from her studies at local Brampton Manor Academy (formerly Brampton Manor School) recalled in the interview that the attack began when one of the men accused Rohan of ‘eyeballing’ him, meaning that the attacker thought that the 17-year-old was looking at him in a contemptuous way. The men then began following the three teens down High Street South and one is said to have thrown an apple at the teenagers as they tried to avoid a confrontation with the racists. Hollie then tried to confront the men over their behaviour.

“That is when we asked them to leave us alone, but he punched me in the face and I fell to the ground” Hollie narrated.

During the attack, the Newham Reporter also states that Stephanie’s hair was pulled, her phone was smashed and that the thugs also snatched a chain from around Rohan’s neck.

Hollie added “I’ve lived in this area my whole life but have never seen anything like it”

“The worst thing was people were actually standing there and watching, but finally two schoolboys came to help us”

“All three of us were assaulted. It was a racist attack against my cousin and I just don’t understand how two grown men assault two young girls”.

As of publishing date by the Newham Recorder, there have been no arrests made and police inquiries are still ongoing. Local police are appealing for witnesses to come forward in confidence.

Anyone with information about the East Ham incident should call police on 101 or alternatively, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. You do not have to give your name or any identifying details.

“Three teenagers attacked by grown men in ‘racist’ attack” – Seema Hakim, Newham Recorder, Archant Community Media Limited (17 June 2015)
“File:East Ham High St – geograph.org.uk – 61623.jpg” –  Glyn Baker, geograph.org.uk & Wikimedia Commons (5 October 2005) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:East_Ham_High_St_-_geograph.org.uk_-_61623.jpg

YOUNGROOTS: Grant programme helps youngsters discover heritage

A new grant programme has been set up in the United Kingdom to help British youngsters understand their heritage and express it through community service and media.

Shout Out UK, an alternative youth publication, reported today that the Heritage Lottery Fund is running the first stages of a special granting programme, the #YoungRoots Grant Programme, which gifts up to £50,000 in funds to individual young people and youth organisations to help discover and express their heritage.

Youth (Photo credit: Chris JL)

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is a funding arm of Britain’s National Lottery organisation. Founded in 1993, HLF aims to sustain and transform a wide range of heritage projects in the United Kingdom via innovative investment in projects which will have a lasting impact on ordinary people and places. The fund has already distributed £6 billion in lottery funds to over 36,500 projects since 1994.

This past Monday 7th April, the HLF took over Cambridge‘s Fitzwilliam Museum to official roadshow the #Youngroots programme with many young people in attendance and a host of entertaining shows.

The museum played host to a circus performance by the La Bonche Family, speeches from the Olympic medallist Robbie Grabarz and SBTV’s Aaron Roach Bridgeman delivering a specially created spoken word piece to the audience. A host of projects were also selected to be publicised from the thousands of young people between the ages of 11 and 25 who have already benefitted from the programme in using the awards to explore the UK’s rich heritage.

A section of the #Youngroots events was dedicated to showing three films on the subject of heritage, and which were produced by youths. These films are also being promoted in tandem on the Heritage Lottery Twitter account to spread the programme’s message.

One attendee at the Cambridge event, Louis John, the founder of an entertainments media outlet, said to Shoutout UKHeritage plays an important part of our lives and how we see the world. Its great to see so many young people getting excited about exploring theirs, I feel inspired

The Young Roots programme – grants between £10,000 and £50,000
  • provides new opportunities for young people aged 11 to 25 to learn about heritage;
  • allows young people to lead and take part in creative and engaging activities;
  • develops partnerships between youth organisations and heritage organisations; and
  • creates opportunities to celebrate young people’s achievements in the project and share their learning with the wider community.

(reproduced from the report on Shoutout UK website)

The programme will not only open up a new avenue to young people on journeys of self-discovery but also inspire a new generation of filmmakers to learn about their surroundings and origins without being restricted by not having enough money to start up ideas. #Youngroots will also help shatter popular misconceptions about British teens and young adults as being careless and possessing no interest in community environments and history.


HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
Shout Out UK, Twitter LINK
“About us” – Heritage Lottery Fund LINK
“Youth” – Chris JL, Flickr (26 February 2011) LINK
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MOSQUITO RINGTONES: The undercover texter’s dream?

By Vijay Shah

If you are a teenager at school trying very hard to text or WhatsApp your mates during a long boring double lesson of physics, you know that you have to keep your mobile on silent, unless you have an overwhelming desire to see it sitting at the bottom of the teacher’s desk drawer until the end of the day. Your two hours are spent being some kind of undercover texting ninja, keeping one nervous eye on Teach while the other pays more attention to that 10 inch glowing screen.

You then flee the confines of school, only to wind up a paper-pusher with endless mind-draining and soul-destroying meetings.

You develop the almost-criminal urge to whittle up a few hilarious jokes/banter with Dave from Accounts or a quick flirt with Suzy from Marketing (or the other way round). However you do not want the boss thinking that you are paying more attention to your iPhone than her riveting discussion of the Japanese subsidiary’s mid-term closing results.

Dave (Photo credit: The Neal)

Dave: quite the hot stuff, or so he thinks…..

Apparently the Twitterscape has a solution for your secretive SMS escapades, a foolproof guard against cellphone confiscation by overzealous educators or the ‘do-you-have-something-to-share-with-us’ demands of power-tripping project managers who model themselves on Mussolini with a mean streak torn straight off  Thatcher.

Introducing the “Mosquito Ringtone” , scientifically designed to make your phone inaudible to higher-ups, thus allowing for potentially interruption-free conversations.

The ringtones are designed to emit a basic sound that is only audible to people under a certain age. These sounds lie at the highest limit of human hearing and were traditionally used by backpackers and residents of tropical places to ward off mosquitos, carriers of the potentially fatal disease malaria. Camping stores made a killing selling electronic gadgets that emitted these high-pitched buzzes and even radio broadcasts in Brazil made use of ‘mosquito repellant’ music.

It had a limited effect on mozzies/skeeters – and could not stop bitten unfortunates from ending up in a mortuary, but might just spare you from ending up in the Jobcentre or detention room.

The ringtone works on the scientific principle that the older you grow, the weaker your hearing becomes. The tone is virtually inaudible to people above the age of 30, as by then the eardrums and inner age become less active, a condition medically known as presbycusis. The ringtone is therefore aimed at teenagers and young adults whose hearing is still sharp enough to pick up the sound…so they can pick up their calls. Your older teacher or boss will be blissfully unaware.

According to producers Free Mosquito Ringtones, the technology was developed by British inventor and sound engineer Howard Stapleton in 2005. Shopkeepers complained to him of the scourge of young people hanging around outside their stores, looking bored and menacing. Their customers were being frightened off and their sales were falling as a result. He produced a prototype sound alarm that would be an irritant to the teens but have zero effect on older shoppers. Stapleton based his idea on the dog whistle, which emits a pitched sound that is only accessible to canines.

The product was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent taking advantage of the already well-known ultrasonic dog repellent. Emitting a high-pitched whine at 17.4 KHz, the ‘Mosquito‘ technically produced the same wavelength as a the buzzing swansong of a mosquito searching for its next meal.

A group of enterprising teens from the same hometown of Birmingham as Mr Stapleton, decided to retaliate. They took the concept of the Mosquito deterrent system and reversed its intended purpose. They studied the ultrasonic whines and transformed them into a ringtone called ‘Teen Buzz’. Now teenagers could hear their classmate’s phones ringing off without the teacher suspecting a thing. The new melodies were eventually released under various names i.e. Ultra Sonic Ringtone, Mozzy Tone. Uploaded to forums and social networks, they soon spread like wildfire over the Internet, creating a buzz among youngsters all over the globe. KFC even enlisted the Mosquito Buzz for one of their commercials.

Loudness curves of human hearing.
Loudness curves of human hearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The FMR website offers downloads and samples of different ringtones ranging from 8 KiloHertz, which can be heard by all and sundry to the  20-22 KiloHertz range which is noticeable only to people in their teens.  I am 28 years old, and found I could not hear anything above 17 KiloHertz. By the time I reach my forties that could plummet to 15 kHz.

A great idea, but admittedly it is one which would be challenging for fans of Rihanna, One Direction or of any kind of music for that matter, as the buzzing interferes with the songs’ enjoyment…. besides no-one has yet to discover an all-singing all-biting insect willing to lay down tracks in a studio (Gnat King Cole…Midge Ure?!). If you are being taught by a substitute teacher straight out of college, forget the ringtone and stick to vibrate. He will know it’s you!

You can try out the ringtones here: http://www.freemosquitoringtones.org/

The KFC advert: people were encouraged to call in and identify when they heard the sound, a prize of 1000 $10 gift cards awaited the lucky winners.

A YouTube user named Jonathan Holowka of  Toronto, Canada – a music enthusiast and website entrepreneur, uploaded some basic videos of mosquito sounds at different sonic wavelengths. I’ve embedded some here so you can test your hearing. It is fascinating stuff!!.

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OMG Facts at Twitter (@OMGFacts) LINK

“Mosquito Ring Tone KFC Commercial” – FreeMosquitoRingtones.org LINK

“History of The Mosquito” – FreeMosquitoRingtones.org LINK

SHOTTA-DEM ON ROADS: London’s gang violence – a personal commentary


(C) London Metropolitan University
(C) London Metropolitan University

By Vijay Shah

For two years, I was living in a rented terraced house in Forest Gate, east London. It was a tiny property built over an old graveyard and tucked away in the backstreets, and only a short stroll from the border with the neighbouring borough of Waltham Forest. It was a friendly enough area with a deep sense of community, but it was also very rough and ‘ghetto’. As is common with other inner city areas in London, there was a gang problem. While a local youth centre and an active grime music scene helped kept some teenagers busy, others remained loyal to their respective gangs or to the lifestyle of the streets, of the ” ‘hood”. There were tensions between the youths in our part of the ‘Gate’, some of whom I know personally, and gangs from the nearby council estates across the border in Cann Hall. These two sets of enemies hated each other’s guts…and probably still do. If anyone between 14-19 years age from my area was unfortunate enough to wander into Cann Hall gang territory, they would be approached, then asked “Blud, what ends you from?” (where do you come from?). Answering ‘Forest Gate’ would have had painful, if not fatal consequences.

The rivalry was intense to the point that gangsters from Cann Hall would drive stealthily into our area under cover of darkness to carry out shooting attacks or drive-bys on enemy youths. More than once, I would leave early to go work only to find police had sealed off our road and a polite copper would note down my name and address, then let me through. Gunshots would occasionally reverberate through the night air, as I lulled myself into some small false hope that it was a firework or a vehicle backfiring. A local acquaintance was shot at five times while seated in a car, with some bullets passing through his leg. Thankfully he survived, but others do not have luck on their side. Postcode gang wars have claimed many victims, and have spread fear to the point where youths will take detours to avoid passing certain postal zones or neighbourhoods on their way to school, college or work.

London, like any major conurbation anywhere in the world, has its problems with crime and violence. Poverty, lack of jobs and disaffection with life and society, and a breakdown in the traditional family structure has led people to seek solace in gangs, which become their ‘fam’ or family.  According to a 2007 report by the Met Police, some 169 gangs operate within the greater London region. They are responsible for about a fifth of youth crime, and 25% have committed murder. Gangs also corner the market in street robberies, drugs, gun smuggling, credit card fraud and sexual crimes.

Gangs are often attached to certain areas or postcodes and will instigate violence against rivals in other postcode areas (C) Sillysoft.net
Gangs are often attached to certain areas or postcodes and will instigate violence against rivals in other postcode areas (C) Sillysoft.net

Over the past few years, more and more teenagers are being killed and injured on London streets and not all of them were necessarily gang members themselves. But like any crime, anyone can find themselves caught up.

A student from Argentina, Steven Grisales, stabbed through the heart in Edmonton, north London after confronting youths who were throwing conkers (chestnut fruits) at him for a laugh.

– Daniel Graham, 18 years, stabbed 24 times in front of passengers on a bus by three members of the GMG (Guns, Murder and Girls) gang. The attack lasted only 45 seconds, but Daniel bled to death as people desperately tried to save him.

– Sylvester Akapalara, a future athletics champion, gunned down by the GMG gang in Peckham, south-east London

– Sofyen Belamouadden – barely still in school, he was set upon in the ticket hall of Victoria Underground station by more than 20 other schoolkids as horrified commuters looked on. They churned themselves into a frenzy, repeatedly stabbing, punching and kicking him as he lay dying on the floor.

– Thusha Kamaleswaran, just 5 years of age, she was playing and skipping about in her uncle’s convenience store in Stockwell, when three gang members chasing  a rival fired a handgun into the shop entrance to kill him. Little Thusha was hit instead, and is now paralysed from a spinal injury and wheelchair-bound, thus ending her dream of becoming a dancer.

Ten years ago when I was attending school, such madness was virtually unknown. Twenty men chasing down one boy was unheard of. Fights were settled with strictly hand-on-hand combat, rather than arming up and using ‘shanks’ and ‘gats’ (knives and guns). After the playground scuffle finished, the belligerents would often shake hands and establish the peace. Children killing other children rarely happened, and murders were the preserve of older people. In 2008, only seven years after I left school, thirty young people lost their lives in gang-related violence. Communities and families are being affected or even ripped apart as youths clash, stab and shoot to show loyalty to their gangs, to settle scores and to gain street cred among their peers.

The police in London have their means to engage the problem, but many inner-city young people despise them. The ‘feds’ as they are referred to in the local slang, are hated with a passion. The police also do not help matters by being heavy-handed and have alienated young people through such policies as stop-and-searches, which predominantly target young Afro-Caribbean males. They have made attempts to ease the relationship though; through initiatives like school visits and helping former gangsters turn from a life of crime and fear.

Outside of New Scotland Yard, charities and support groups such as Kids’ Company are also helping in the battle. For them it entails encouraging those who otherwise might have been recruitment fodder for gangs to take a different direction in life, by encouraging and developing their talents and helping them in practical matters, like getting a job or applying for accommodation. While some gang members revel in guns and glory, others are there because to them, there is nothing else outside and the gang is the only family they have got. If there is a viable alternative for them, and if society puts aside its prejudice and accepts them, then youths can leave behind gangs and the devastation and hopelessness they bring.

Urban gang violence has many causes and many solutions. Governments and authority figures have mostly taken a one-size-fits-all ‘sticking plaster’ approach to gang disorder, which has not made a real impact. Punitive measures like house raids and frisking teenagers on the street to confiscate their £10 packets of cannabis leaf may tackle visible street crime, but have also alienated inner-city youths from mainstream society, their resentment pushing them still further into the all-too-attractive clutches of street gangs. If decision-makers try to work with young people and understand their worldviews, as my borough Newham’s Youth Parliament have done for many years, then young Londoners can feel part of a bigger thing, somewhere that they have a voice and a place. But solving our issue of gangs and youth crime is not just a mere A-to-B matter. We cannot expect quick-fix solutions and the problem will not completely go away. If we can deal with issues like poverty, deprivation, lack of youth facilities, racism etc etc. then gangs will not be so attractive any more. But in today’s recession-battered and morally broken Britain, things may get worse before they get better.

Thanks to Mohammed Miah for suggesting the subject for today’s article