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Teens Today vs. Previous Generations

By November 14, 2008

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A new forum member asks: "I am only 21 years old and am not a parent, however I am going to be student teaching adolescents very soon. Maybe you all could help answer/debate a few questions of mine. First of all, how do you view teens today? Do you think it is more or less stressful growing up in today's world as a teenager than it would have been perhaps 20 or 30 years ago? I'm curious to find out why or why not."

Denise's thoughts: Very interesting question. I've enjoyed reading the responses on the forum and I'm looking forward to the responses we get here in the comments area. I thought I might go off on a tangent and talk a bit about how much parents have changed in that time period too. While the younger generation may not see it this way, generationally, parents get smarter. Today's teen is facing the 'been there, done that' parent. We not only read what to expect when we were anticipating our children, we acted on the good advice. We take advantage of places to talk and get help, like this forum. Previous generations of parents didn't have that.

Asking our parenting community: What are your thoughts? How have teens changed since the 80's? What are the changes you see in parenting during that time frame? Please share your opinions, antidotes and stories in the comments area.

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November 14, 2008 at 10:31 am
(1) KFCM says:

I am a single parent of a daughter, 16, and a teacher of 8th graders (with 29 years of experience) so I definitely see both sides of teens – then and now. 1) Teens from earlier generations did not have the “instant” communication that this generation has because of text messaging. Therefore, the dramas that were happening were not instantaneously broadcast to all the world; they had to wait to at least get to a phone and usually by that time, the heat of the drama had died down – not so with IM – it feeds the flame!!!!! 2) Also, more kids today are growing up in single parent homes, and usually the parents are not living in the same town – mobile society – it is hard to deal with the long distance (or often absent) parenting. 3) Lastly, teens today are bombarded by a very explicit sexual media – TV, movies, music – 90% of what they see and listen to today would not have been allowed to be on prime time or public radio – most of the messages are not helpful in teaching them good morals and values.

November 14, 2008 at 4:54 pm
(2) Anna says:

Que frankly my daughter and I still attend church, but we have also added psch counseling for both separatly. She is 15 nd recently announed she is bisexual! Something I did not understand. So, I stepped back, and I am trying to allow her to teach me her world, I do not want to lose her.

November 15, 2008 at 11:57 am
(3) Jean says:

When I was a teenager (late sixties through early seventies) the world was exploding with new ideas, and BIG TEMPTATIONS, for us kids. Luckily, I had a mother who was unlike my friends’ June Cleaver clones, in that she had been an actress, living alone at times, in her late teens in New York, and later in Virginia. She fought off the advances of many of the stars we kids watched growing up on TV! I digress … She warned all four of her daughters of the “temptations” out there, but said it was up to us to choose between instant pleasure now, or a great career that would take training and holding off on other things for later. All six of her children turned out just fine! In many ways, today’s kids are much more sophisticated than when I was a teen. They are certainly more articulate, at least vocally, and more importantly, not afraid to speak up for themselves. MY parents were “depression era,” and we were told never to answer back. I have the strange situation of having had my only child, a beautiful 13-year-old girl, when I was forty, so she has to deal with having a Boomer Parent while all her friends’ parents are young enough to be HER parents’ kids! Yes, she HATES the Beatles! ;) but I LOVE Adele! so it isn’t so bad.

I think it is true that the parents do get smarter. Boomer parents like me were FAR better educated than their parents, except MY parents were not the norm from my peers, either. My generation’s biggest fault was trying to be FRIENDS with their kids first, then parents. I think that is changing. What blows me away about today’s teens is that they know a lot more a lot sooner than any other generation on earth, thanks to the dizzying increase in computer technology, iPods, text messaging, etc. None of that existed for a kid like me born in 1955 or even today’s kids’ parents born in, say, the late 70s. The PROBLEM is, it’s all about instant gratification now. I also worry about the reality shows that put too much emphasis on having perfect bodies for both girls AND boys. Think: Paris Hilton: BFF. GAG! I’m rambling, sorry.

My final thought: I adore ALL of my daughter’s friends, and am very excited to see them grow up. They have a lot to say and, best of all, they really care about current affairs and the fate of the world

November 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm
(4) Sean Mc Cathy says:

I work regularly with adolescents and their families and I believe that as society changes so do the teens of that time. Yes I think it can be a more stressful time to be a teen now. Especially if those teens do not have a strong support network. It is essential for kids to learn critical problem solving skills much earlier these days. There are way more decisions to be made on a daily basis and often parents are not around as much today to help with those decisions. The world today is a faster moving world. A 24 hour, constant supply of information and influence, that teens are often plugged into better than their parents. If teens are not taught how to process, filter, and make educated decisions on all this information it can be very stressful, and potentially dangerous.
Now as I stated at the beginning, students today are highly adaptable. They are technologically savvy. They can quickly find the answers. Teens today present as more balanced, they do a better job seeing the whole picture. The area that I see the biggest disconnect is in emotional management. As they mature and present being balanced I question whether teens today have connected with their emotions, have been modeled to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. And as many adults can attest, a large source of stress is dealing with our emotions. I see many teens who make decisions without understanding or considering the emotional consequences of their actions. This concept seems to be the biggest concern I have between teens now and teens of 20 years ago.

November 15, 2008 at 4:45 pm
(5) carol says:

One thing that has not been mentioned in the above is work ethic. I work in a high school transition program and find that when it comes to “school work” students seem to know what is expected. However, many are clueless when it comes to expected behaviors at a job site. They do not seem to think it is a problem to listen to “only one” earphone from their ipod. Many do not realize that when an assigned task is completed it is NOT time to just visit with fellow employees or speak on a personal phone call for 40 minutes. They do not think to “look” for something on their own that needs attending – that they should always “look” busy (even when it is REALLY slow. The only way I seem to get students to actually understand that one very basic job skill is to remind them that the boss does not need to pay someone to do NOTHING. When I was a teen (late 60s – early 70s) we all had responsibilities (jobs) in our home and were expected to do these tasks on our own, without reminding, as our contribution to the family unit – no payment or allowance. I think that our youth today are involved in so many extracurricular activities that many teens have never had a “responsibility” (besides keeping their room clean) in the home and therefore have not had the opportunity to learn the very basic of job skills. Unfortunately this does hurt them when it comes to performance evaluations, promotions and retaining early paying positions. Sometimes I feel that by trying to help our children “get ahead” and have the best opportunities in their futures we (yes I am including myself)actually harm them by giving them too many things and not allowing them to earn those things and learn through their experiences while young and consequently they expect people to “hand” them what they are seeking (instant gratification) and really do not understand the work ethic needed to accomplish their desired goal or the gratification of struggling and then obtaining it.
If we were only a perfect world!

November 16, 2008 at 3:39 pm
(6) Ann says:

Another thing to consider is the rise in the number of kids who have been diagnosed with behavioural or learning disorders. The following article from The Stuart News, http://www.tcpalm.com
is a scary one:
Boy allegedly hits mom with saw, offers her $5
Nov 14, 9:06 PM (ET)

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) – Authorities say an 11-year-old boy hit his mother in the head with a saw and then offered her $5 not to call police. The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office reported that the boy and his 41-year-old mother got into an argument Wednesday when she was trying to get him to take his medication.

The boy left and went to another home, where he began hitting a tree with a saw. When the mother finally caught up with the boy, authorities say he hit her in the head with the saw, causing a minor laceration. A sheriff’s report said that’s when the boy began pleading with his mother not to call police and offered her a $5 bill.

The boy is facing an aggravated battery charge.

November 17, 2008 at 10:21 am
(7) Susan says:

It seems to me that teens growing up today are much different in many ways than when I grew up.
Both good and bad.
I think–they are encouraged more to pursue their interests. However–it seems like the high school requirements are tougher than when I was in high school. There is alot more expected of them as as what they accomplish.
They do have more of a selection when it comes to courses.

I do feel kids have alot more as far as material things than when I was growing up.
I don’t know if this is because of all the technology?
I am against them having so much. Kids–now have their own t.v’s when they are 12 or so.
If kids grow up with so much–what sort of message is this for when they are adults?

June 27, 2011 at 12:27 pm
(8) Marlen says:

lol i had my own t.v ever since i was….forever lol i can’t even remember! but waaay definitely b4 i was 12. I think the message i get out of having so much when i’m growing up only encourages me to try to accomplish more in life so that i can maintain what i have and more. haha and i know it was 2008 when u first posted ur comment but…whatever idc, i replied anywayz! XD

December 29, 2008 at 1:35 am
(9) echota says:

I am a non-traditional college student so I have the unique advantage of being across the generation divide. What I have noticed is that a lot more girls experiment with bi-sexual behavior, often as an expected and preferred behavior encouraged by boyfriends, rave clubs where the idea is to “zone-out” on repetitive music and cough syrup (robo-trippin) and mixtures of anything they can find in the medicine cabinet at home mixed with binge drinking, mattress parties (everyone on mattresses changing partners), and I can keep going. I am not saying that these kids are bad: NOT at all. They just seem lost, unfulfilled, lonely and removed from the adult world, more so than my generation (I am 36). They have kids so someone will love them, many don’t know one of their parents (their mother may not know either and the kids will tell you that like it is no big deal). They really feel alienated from the adult world and dependent solely on their world for acceptance. I say all of this in general, of course. And they are so desensitized: nothing freaks them out: sex, murder, whatever. I can see how some of these kids get lost and pick-up a gun and express themselves. Teenage years are rough enough but these kids really are more alone than any generation has ever been. That is why I really think that we should appreciate our teachers in elementary and secondary schools more: the ones that reach out and take that extra step. These kids need that. They are so much more muli-tasking than previous generations have ever been- now if they could just relate more by influential adults reaching out to them and making a connection. These kids need to feel some hope and some love from us older folks, and some respect.

May 15, 2012 at 11:49 am
(10) Rachel says:

Hi, I’m 17. And although I’m not a parent, I’d like to say That I agree with some of the parents on here. I think that teens today rely too much upon tabloids, texting, and what Kim K, and other stars are wearing. And I don’t think it’s all that hard being a teenager. Personally, I think that the issue is a lot of parents don’t teach their children values. They let them run wild and do whatever they please.

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