being a teeenager

Reasons Being a Teenager is Harder Than It Was in Our Day

I have always been a fan of Saturday Night Live. One of my favorite eras of SNL was the late 80’s and early 90’s. Dana Carvey had so many memorable characters and catchphrases. There was a character he did called Grumpy Old Man who would complain about progress and lament about how easy things are today. He’d spout off:

Today everyone’s spoiled rotten. When I was a boy, we didn’t have these video games. We made up our own games, like ‘Chew the Bark Off the Tree.’ You and your friends would find a nice oak tree and you’d start chewing the skin off of it. And there were no winners. Everyone was a loser. It rotted your teeth and left your intestines scarred and knotted. And that’s the way that it was and we liked it. We loved it!

It’s easy to look at today’s generation of teenagers and say they are babied, oversensitive, and have a sense of entitlement. In some ways that criticism is accurate, but when I see a viral video of a Jeff Daniels character calling late adolescents, “The worst period. Generation period. Ever period.” I think it’s time to stop for a reality check. If I were given the choice between being a teenager now or thirty years ago, I’d take thirty years ago any day of the week. Young people growing up today have challenges more difficult to navigate; these challenges would be more difficult for anyone—let alone a teenager who hasn’t figured out who they are yet. They are living in a world that is completely different than the one we grew up in and we can’t rely on our own teenage experience to guide them effectively. When we understand their world, we will have a deeper influence. Here are 3 reasons being a teenager is harder today than it was in our day.

Under the Microscope and Forever Documented

Imagine having a filming crew document your teen years and then posting it all online. Think about every dumb or immature thing you did or said in high school or college. The Internet has provided a permanent and public place for all of that to be exposed and mercilessly judged. Privacy is nonexistent. There’s always someone, mainly peers, documenting their every move and word. It’s pressure we were fortunate to live without.

Never-Ending Exposure

The Internet is their world and the stream of information is constant. Sure, they can decide not to go on, but that is like telling a teen to stay in their room for all of high school. It’s not realistic. They are going to be on there and encounter everything offered, positive and negative. Unfortunately, the negative can do major damage. A kid being bullied could, at least, find a safe haven when they got home. There is no safe haven from cyber bullying.
They are exposed to violence and pornography at an early age without an ability to process what they are seeing. Most teenage boys, in particular, end up with an addiction to pornography as a result. Innocence and childhood are cut short while adulthood is still many years away.

Unhealthy Expectations

I’m all for setting a high standard. The problem is that we are asking teenagers to do too much with not enough time. [Tweet This] Today’s teenager needs to play sports all year with the commitment level of a professional athlete. Most are forced into taking advanced placement courses, giving them a workload they are ill-equipped to complete. They must complete service hours, be a stage performer, do activities outside of school, and sometimes have jobs. They do not have the time to do all of it at a high level. It’s exhausting. When I asked one teen to go to a summer camp several years ago, he asked if he would get service hours. When I told him, “No,” he asked why he should go. When I said, “To have fun,” he said, “I don’t have time for that.” What a sad statement.

Sound Off

What else do you think teens are challenged with today?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • JC Cincy

    Don’t forget the agenda-driven schooling – my 9th grader’s orientation featured the discussion on bathroom choice: if a boy feels like a girl, he can go in the girl’s bathroom after – of course – proper discussion (not intervention) with school officials… College was where I ran into a full frontal assault of liberal stupidity – now, it’s in Jr. High…

    • Evan

      If the biggest problem you have is a concern about the school acknowledging (and accommodating) the existence of transgender children at your child’s school, you might count your blessings.

    • Black Bart

      Was it also a “full-frontal assault of liberal stupidity” when desegregation occurred? Or when women fought for and won the right to vote? Would you take away your wife’s right to vote? Transgender is another class of people who need protection from bullies like you. So get back in line, pipe down, deal with the transgender talk, and stop picking on people who are different from you to make yourself feel better.

      • JC Cincy

        No, dumbass… Desegregation and women’s right to vote occurred counter to the wishes of the Democrats… as for Transgender – you are XX or XY, or you have a mental condition that needs addressed and rectified, not coddled.

        • Black Bart

          People are supposed to live in harmony and not live in fear and hate of one another. But you are afraid of change. That change has happened and you are being left behind. It’s OK. It’s evolution. Humanity is choosing to be better than our past of hatred and fear. So you can insult me all you want. But I can see the truth. So many people share your ugly hateful opinion but that tells me everything I need to know. As I said before, you are a bully and a coward to pick on transgender kids. I feel bad for your children being raised by such a closed-minded person. You are not doing them any favors with the world progressing the way it is. I have no intention of trying to preach to you or convert you. It’s useless. Time and change will do its thing. It is very sad to me that so many Americans share your opinion. You ascribe to hate instead of harmony. But you’re a hypocrite. If your kid was picked on for having brown hair or for being short or fat, you would show up and scream at the offender and want a Federal case launched to exact righteous vengeance on the perpetrator. But it’s OK for you to $hit all over transgender kids and call them mentally ill because they are different than you? That is as hypocritical as it is infantile. But since it’s a free country, you are welcome to as worthless an opinion as you want. But just because you’re allowed to hate, that doesn’t mean your ideology will succeed in the long term. Haters back the wrong horse every time. They back hate and anger when they could choose harmony, fun, and joy. I don’t have anything else to say to you.

  • Mike

    I almost completely disagree. These kids got where they are from bad advice from “experts” and even worse if any parenting. The basics of character, morals, and self confidence are what is lacking. Sure there are more outside influences, but that just makes it harder to parent. If you raise them right, being a kid is no different today than it ever was. Sure the influences and pressures are different, but the skills to navigate them are the same and in most cases the parents themselves don’t have them anymore so you have a generation of kids making it up as they go along because we as a society have lost our way. Those of us raised old school and raising our kids old school with strong character and values may be frustrated at the state of things and the extra work to negate the failings of those around us, but our kids are equipped to handle any world they grow up in. Don’t make excuses for them, make good strong, respectful kids who are aren’t afraid to fail, but are willing to work to recover/achieve and the rest will take care of itself.

  • Richie

    Thank you BJ for this. I do agree with you. You have to raise a kid in the generation they live in, you cannot raise them thinking they live in a different generation. They do face some similar things now days, and need to learn the values and character to deal with the normal things of life; but they also face things that are much more difficult to deal with. Just one example – if you were bullied at school or people picked on you for something, it pretty much ended when you left school or at least when you got home. Today, things get even worse for someone in that situation, when school is over people will post things online they would never say to someones face or because they would get in trouble at school. It is magnified and shared in a way that we would have never experienced even just a few years back. The bullying and picking on only gets worse, not better when school is over, and this is just one area this happens in. Instead of trying to raise our kids in a different generation, what we want to do is raise our kids to learn how to make decisions and learn what is most valuable in their current setting. You can try and remove certain influences from a kids life, but you cannot remove the kid from their generation – it will only make them less influential in the world they live.

  • Chester Hall

    Both BJ and you, Mike, touch on issues that are very true in all respect. I agree with everything that was stated above, but yes, some of this can fall back to parenting as well.

    It’s no secret that we do expect more from our kids today, and some of us even expect them to navigate it with no issues at all. This mindset is far from healthy for our kids, and meeting the expectation will not happen, no matter how hard we as parents try to instill it, unless we are willing to accept partially developed adults (highly athletic with no communication skills, highly intellectual with no personality, etc). It’s pretty near unrealistic. We’ve got standardized testing and curriculum pushing our kids to learn how to take tests and not enjoy learning. We have increasingly high competition in academics, so taking a foreign language is for an advanced high school diploma opposed to just being for knowledge sake. Even playing school or recreational sports aren’t fun nor developmental anymore, because scouts are always watching and scholarships/pro contracts are on the line. Being a kid today sucks! Add a layer of Big Brother social media being forever on, and you’ve got a powerful concoction for mental, physical, social, emotional (and possibly even intellectual) breakdown.

    Mike, you’re right. This is more a societal problem, less a parenting problem. Society is perpetuating that one cannot be successful unless they are incredibly smart, incredibly talented, incredibly rich, incredibly good looking, or incredibly “something,” and our kids believe this. In turn, they try to balance these amazingly full plates on top of just being a normal kid, and it just doesn’t cut it. All we can do as parents is raise them with values, morals, character, and hope that we did well enough that society doesn’t eat them up. But, if we continue to allow current societal norms to embrace this type of negative behavior, (athletic elitism, 24 hours plugged in, allowing for disrespect of peers and elders, I’m not successful unless…, and the like) then what we may do in the home may be a moot point.

    I am a parent of a soon to be 9 year old. I am actively involved in all of his endeavors, from being a Cubmaster, Soccer Coach, and take days off from work to read to his class. But, he’s not the greatest soccer player, not the best reader (nor does he like to), and sometimes hates Scout meetings. That’s okay, I get it! He’s gonna come up against the biggers, betters, fasters, strongers, smarters, “richers,” “handsomers,” (lol) and he will begin to see that the playing field is still far from level, even though we try to let them know that it is. He will ask the questions and I will try my best to answer them. How he reacts to the answers will be completely on him. Hopefully he will reflect back on his parents’ teachings.

    Enjoyed the dialogue, fellas!

    GOODLIFE!! Coaching

    • Black Bart

      350 million people in America. All being told they are special. All being told that ONLY material wealth and achievement of credentials counts. BILLIONS spent on advertising dollars to keep people buying $hit they don’t need to impress people they could care less about. So many people chasing their own golden calf with no regard for anyone else. Americans… humans… we have to EVOLVE past all this. Or it is certain our children and planet will continue to suffer. Our own egos will do us in. As the old saying goes “Pride goeth before a fall.”

  • Black Bart

    BJ… everything you say is true but here’s the problem. The ADULTS created all the chaos teens find themselves in today. We launched new tech after new tech and marketed it to them making them think if they dont have the lateat gadget then their life is over. Our politicians don’t lead. They are self-serving buffoons. If the current crop of teens are tough to deal with, I blame the PARENTS. Not the kids. Kids are kids. They don’t know how to handle life yet. They are becoming something else. Adults…. ideally we SHOULD know something about how to deal with life…. but alas, many don’t due to whatever number of socioeconomic, geographic circumstances, etc. Public schools aren’t trusted anymore. No one has any respect for teachers (admins, parnets and students alike), so We (grownups) dont have the right to sit around and wonder “Gee…. what happened? Why is all this so hard?” We have a DUTY to solve our problems, which as a collective in America we have become nearly incapable of doing. All the adult chaos trickles down to kids. It affects them and makes them sad and angry. Kids need harmony to thrive and selfless adults who will put their needs first until such time as the child can fly on their own. It is a shame that we have gotten so far away from these fundamental values. Lack of fundamental parenting values as well as lack of respect for public school in general are causing massive difficulties for everyone.

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