Every older generation eyes teenagers with distrust, and will lament to anyone that will listen that young people do not realise how good they have it.
It appears nothing changes, but is it really all that great to be an adolescent in the modern world?
I have been teaching in the post-compulsory education sector for 15 years and have witnessed, first hand, the changing challenges that teens are facing. The most concerning of which are growing mental health issues. In fact, my job has become less about teaching a curriculum and more about trying to keep my students alive.
- Education lets them down
We offer a Victorian-era education system which teaches obedience and conformity; with over-testing used routinely, too much homework to allow time to explore outside or indulge in hobbies, and a lack of real world valuable education.
I once asked my students how much they thought I got paid. “Oh you must be on at least £8 an hour!” No wonder they don’t value education when they think after a masters degree and teacher training I would only be on a few pounds more than them. They have been let down by their schools, and also their parents. We have a duty to talk about our wages, debts, interest rates, bills, and savings.
This is one of my students, 16yr old Jasmine, beautifully articulating her worries.
Hi Jasmine. As a student, what do you think the biggest worries are for teenagers for the future and entering the…
Learning should be life-long, but our passion, our confidence, self esteem, curiosity, and motivation, are all too often stamped on in secondary school.
Of course the media plays its part, as our children are assaulted by its negativity from birth. So why is there no media education (or as I call it, defense against the dark arts) in primary school? It should be mandatory in secondary school, and taught by media specialists, not an English, Performing Arts, or in one instance I heard of, P.E teacher, “making do”.
2. Information overload, too much choice leads to boredom
Our teens today can do anything. They can watch any movie, listen to any music, investigate any subject, communicate with people all over the globe. So sadly, many do nothing.
It’s too big. Hick’s Law states that the more options we have the longer it takes to make a decision. And with the lack of belief in themselves, no wonder they decide not to choose at all.
It stuns me how often I see teens on Snapchat snap “someone talk” or “bored”. They are alone and scared, but will never admit it. But how can they make a decision when they also don’t know what to believe? More and more people are waking up to the fact that maybe, just maybe, the media has an agenda.
3. No emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligent people are more likely to succeed but its not something that is supported in our teens, quite the opposite.
Keep your eyes on the news for any length of time, and you’ll see that it’s just one endless cycle of war, violent attacks, fragile economies, failing companies, and environmental disasters. It’s easy to think the world is headed downhill fast. And who knows? Maybe it is. But mentally strong people don’t worry about that because they don’t get caught up in things they can’t control. — Dr Travis Bradberry
They over value other people’s opinions and allow negative people far too much influence on their state of mind. They have been taught that failure is a terrible thing, and are scared to try new things in case they make a mistake. Because of advertising and social media they over compare themselves with other people, usually negatively.
They don’t exercise as much as school playing fields are sold off, and contact sports require too much health and safety insurance. They, in no way, get enough sleep. In fact there is evidence that teens should not start school until 10am.
“We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14–24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.” — Paul Kelly
4. Misunderstood by adults
I am often asked why teens are disillusioned, and I am always surprised at the question. Just take a moment. They are are told they will probably be living with their parents until they are 30+, they are told jobs are hard to get, university is expensive (and besides there are graduates working in Greggs alongside them on minimum wage), the things they love doing are not valued, and the media has been brainwashing them to be unhappy with their bodies and possessions since they were born.
Life is very different now. You can make money online, you can be a digital nomad, you can play video games for a living (why is it weird that there is a market in watching people play video games? Don’t people watch snooker, golf, chess?) You can be an entrepreneur at 14 now.
Here is Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vayner Media, talking to two 15 year olds because he understands they know more than him about where teenage attention is on social media. Most adults would not care.
5. 2017 has killed patience. They want the perfect life now
Even I hate waiting. When Netflix buffers for just a few seconds I get impatient. What must it be like for a generation that has grown up with the ability to watch anything immediately, or have next day delivery, or instant gratification from playing videos games. Remember the Stanford marshmallow experiment? Our teens are programmed for instant gratification.
What the Marshmallow Test Really Teaches About Self-Control
One of the most influential modern psychologists, Walter Mischel, addresses misconceptions about his study, and…
But that is, in part, due to a lack of trust. In our false world, can they trust that a degree will lead to a job, or if the do X they will pass Y, or if they take their coat off in class they will learn better? Especially when their teacher might be just out of university and still living with their parents.
Even mainstream media is now basically soft porn in parts. Advertisements, music videos, magazine covers. Sex is everywhere. Throw in very easily accessible and problematic hard core pornography and you have a generation of young men that see women as objects to be dominated, and young women that feel pressure to be a circus performer in the bedroom. Thankfully groups like Fight the New Drug are working to educate about the dangers. Porn kills love after all.
Sure we can say that they never had it so good, and a lot of this is 1st world problems, and some teens are making it through unharmed. But too many are in pain, and need our support and our empathy. You can blame them all you like, but we are responsible for their education and for the society that they are growing up in. And we are failing them. Simon Sinek makes some great points in his Millennials Video.
The above may feel kind of negative, but great things are happening to be hopeful about. Mindfulness is being taught in school, home schooling is becoming more organised, the stigma of mental health issues is weakening, LGBTQ awareness is growing every year, and more.
Enough to warrant a list of why its awesome to be a teenager in 2017... coming soon.
What do you think? Feel free to hit me up on social media in the following places or comment below. I respond to everyone, as my intention is to learn not preach.