Technology has taken us a long way from living in caves and clubbing our food. Unfortunately, it’s also the primary carrier for the greatest plague faced by today’s generation of teens and tweens.
The quest for the perfect teenager.
Teens are Notoriously Difficult
Tell any adult that there’s a teen or two living at home, and their first reaction is to cringe. Between hormones, increasing responsibilities, social pressure and the constant push-pull of childhood vs. grown-up-hood, teenagers are a pressure cooker just waiting to blow.
We know that. We’ve known that for years. So why is it so hard to deal with?
Because media stereotypes have taught us that there’s such a thing as the “perfect” teen.
Thanks to the power of mainstream media, parents learn that they should expect certain things from their teen. Physical fitness. Healthy eating. Good grades, in spite of advanced classes. An active social life, with an intimate circle of friends. Plenty of extracurricular activities that keep their plate full and pad their college application. (If it can be sports or cheerleading, that’s even better.) They should help their parents at home, carrying a full load of chores, actively participating in family holiday traditions and willingly staying home on Friday nights to babysit their younger siblings.
Media also teaches us that today’s teens should be active conservationists, work a job (or start their own business), volunteer their time at nursing homes, hospitals and daycare centers, and spend their summers building houses for charity overseas. Teens who don’t do this are on a fast track to trouble, will never get into college, and are doomed to spend their lives flipping burgers and living in their parents’ basement.
Then parents and these overscheduled, overstressed teens wonder why they go a little crazy when they’re asked to do one…more…thing.
Media Brings the World Inside-and Encourages Teens to Go Too Far While Not Going Far Enough
Living in a global society has created the expectation that teens must be greater than themselves. That while caught in the middle of an ongoing quest for their identity, they have to fit into the mold that’s been cast for them.
As adults, we’re encouraged to find our niche. To experiment until we get it right. To take time alone when we need it. To be part of the community, but not at the expense of our mental health.
If we can extend that freedom to our teens.
If we can show them that it’s okay to be different.
If we can say that it’s okay to be themselves, it’s okay to not fit any of the molds Hollywood and NBC have painted for them, and mean it.
If we can demonstrate that yes, there is a spot in the “real” world for people of all shapes and sizes.
If we can express to them that who they are now isn’t who they have to be 10 years from now.
If we can make them understand that they aren’t destined to spend their lives as a social misfit if they wear too much black makeup or play too many video games.
If we can encourage them to seek an identity for themselves away from their peers and the expectations created for them by the mainstream media, this world would be a much better place to be a kid.