Scrolling a while back through the comments on BuzzFeed’s “26 Reasons Why 2014 Has Already Been The Worst Year Ever For Teens,” I came across this statement: “Just another list among many of why this generation sucks and will probably be the downfall of the USA.”
Such comments are not unusual. Teenagers are often portrayed in the media as wild, hopeless, dumb, doomed, uncontrollable and overall a disgrace to their elders.
But this attitude is nothing new.
In the 1950s, parents were scared of Elvis Presley, rock ’n’ roll, and the specialized culture that teens were developing. In the 1960s, older people were worried about the protests happening on college campuses. In the 1970s and ’80s, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were “threatening” older Americans. On April 11, 2014, middle and high schoolers from around the country participated in a Day of Silence for gay rights.
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In the 21st century, older people seem to be worried about the younger generation’s reliance on the Internet and electronics.
The Internet is a big world of information — useful, informative, and time wasting and downright bad. Teens can get addicted to certain apps or social media, and cyber-bullying is a major issue. The amount of screen time cuts into their sleep and keeps teens from exploring the physical world.
Yet, the Internet is not all bad. It connects teens from all over planet Earth.
I take a Spanish class on Skype, where my teacher is teaching from Guatemala. The Internet is also an amazing place where information can be shared quickly and easily.
“In my experience modern-day teens, thanks to the Internet, are more connected, more curious, more independent in their thinking and more experimental (good and bad),” shares Beena Ramaswami, a parent of 18- and 21-year-olds.
Before the Internet, if you had a ground-breaking discovery, you would have to print copies and distribute them. Now, the world’s attention is just a few clicks away. Teens are also writing and being creative on the Internet.
Pull up FanFiction.net, for example, and you will find articles, stories, blurbs and comments written by young people.
Adults tend to ignore us teens unless we do something truly bad.
As Scott Hirsch, a 16-year-old, told me in an online interview: “I always see teen(s) portrayed as lazy, wild and trouble. Maybe there is a some truth, but then again it’s always gonna be that way since teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in.”
Being a teen is hard. High school is difficult, with loads of work and extracurricular activities. In addition, there is the pressure of trying to get into college and often keeping a job.
The parts of our brains responsible for impulsive reactions is not fully developed, leading to the rash decisions we are known for. There can be a lot of social and relationship drama; all this is happening while you are trying to find your way in life and figure out this world you’re inhabiting. Add on the fact that you’re only 13 to 19, and it’s a crazy life.
Brenna Bortell, 14, touches on the root of the problem, saying, “People don’t seem to understand that anyone between the ages of 12-18 is a person.”
Adults, please respect us, take us seriously and gently guide us into the future. Listen to our ideas, and hear us out. Don’t get turned off by us because we’re different from other generations.
Like generations before us, there are good and bad.
Eleanor Nash is a 15-year-old homeschooler attending Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley part time. She lives in Kansas City.