Young people’s place in public space

Young people’s place in public space

In the recent past, the youths have been neglected in terms of public space and are continually being pushed aside.  Evidently, the public is misunderstanding the role of youths in the public space and the impact they impose on the society through social activities. For instance, their involvement in sports brings cohesion in the community thus contributing towards societal development. The continued involvement of youths in the community activities is seen as a criminal activity and most youths are criminalized for obviously harmless activities. In addition, the local authorities as well as other law enforcers have restricted the expression of youth activities in the public space (McAuliffe & Iveson, 2011). Ultimately, its is believed that the expression of these activities brings conflict between commercial interests and the youth.

As a result of the criminalization of youth activities, the society has witnessed an increase in the number of youths that undergo through the criminal justice system. In this regard, youths are prosecuted for simple offences including hanging out in shopping centers and skating. In most instances, the youths are engaged in positive activities such as drawing of graffiti and their involvement in art. In recent years, the government has prosecuted thousands of youths in the judicial system for petty offences such as involvement in art work in the open and public spaces. Accordingly, what the government implies is that the commission of these activities is a criminal activity that the youths must abhor. The ultimate result is that most youths end up confused because they do not understand their offences

One reason why youths are driven from the public space is the fact that graffiti is labeled as a criminal activity through which youths engage in socially ill activities (Sharkley & Shields, 2008). Graffiti has in recent years developed to become a modern touchstone and one that urban managers continually abhor. However, although these managers and essentially the government find these activities to be potentially criminal, they must realize that youths are continually engaged in the practice. This understanding of graffiti, and extensionally, other forms of art is a key reason why the government employs punitive measures in pushing the youths from the public space. To the government, the public space is a reserve for business needs and commercial interests must supercede youth affairs. However, the youths are a backbone of any economy and their involvement in social activities can only mean the best for any society.

It is high time the local administration realizes the place of youths in the development of any society and especially the issue of inclusion (Sarre & Langos, 2014). Ideally, the government must cease the culture of exclusion and criminalization of youth activities to ensure the social development of the youths in general. The decision as to which spaces are acceptable and which are criminalized should be based on the impact that these activities have on the society and not mere assumptions. Ultimately, therefore, youths must be included in the public space and their role in social development acknowledged.



McAuliffe, C. & Iveson, K. 2011. Art and Crime ( and other things besides…): Conceptualising Graffiti in the City. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Sarre, R. & Langos, C., 2014. Policing young people: Can the notion of police legitimacy play a role? University of South Australia

Sharkey, A. & Shields, R. 2008. Abject citizenship – rethinking exclusion and inclusion: participation, criminality and community at a small town youth centre. Children’s Geography.


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