What Have We Done? What today’s teens grapple with…

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I think we adults – I am referring to the baby boomers and Gen Xers here – really have to step up now and admit we are responsible. I read an article last night which was probably not the best one to read while trying to relax on a Sunday night! The raw messages from the teenage girls interviewed and opinions from the psych experts really disturbed me.

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In today’s world where the external and material define most of us, how are we as adults taking responsibility for role-modelling for the younger generation? We started it – the unrelenting pursuit of material wealth and status, the explosion of cyberspace and its trappings, the obsession to have an interesting alternate life on screens everywhere, the myriad of digital toys and faux friends… We continue to perpetuate the problems when we don’t live authentic lives we are proud of, nor make genuine connections that enrich us and then choose to participate in the same games and illusions, and judge ourselves against the worldly ideals we think ‘society’ holds for us. Most role models teenagers have today are no longer from worthy novels or real world history but the media-exposed celebrities and criminals.

Teenagers now feel huge pressures to conform, outperform, have perfect social-media selves, be thin, dress right, and are increasing sexualised at younger ages, girls and boys alike. Reading firsthand accounts of how these girls cope made me realise how we adults really have to do some serious soul-searching and resolve to stop judging ourselves by the wrong standards, so that we don’t do the same to the younger generation (they will do what we do, unfortunately!).

I have read a couple of Steve Biddulph’s books (they are really insightful) and he is quoted in this article as saying:

“The danger time usually starts around 14; typically, a girl vulnerable to these pressures has a dad who is critical or cold; a mum who is stressed and busy; has had fairly unlimited exposure to TV (such as in her bedroom) from early childhood, and now digital media — texting, Facebook — with no time restrictions.

Special attention is needed from ten to 14, when a girl starts to become her own person. She needs adults who have soul, who ask her about her beliefs, values and what she stands for, what she wants her life to be about. She needs to develop an interest or an activity that really makes her feel alive.”

Let’s consciously look at what personal values we hold and maybe decide to drop those we know deep in our hearts, are not going to serve us well as genuine well-adjusted human beings (with soul) who understand self-worth, enriching relationships and open hearts.

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4 responses

  1. I can resonate with the angst of entering your teens as a female. For me it was the point in my life where my self esteem was lowest, I questioned everything about myself and craved affirmations I never received. We were bored, with no structured activities in the evenings, distracted parents…we found stuff to do that would make us feel alive – breaking rules….drinking, exploring our sexuality…activities that don’t help a teenage girl build her self esteem! Gosh if I had a daughter and she was doing what I did as a teenager my hair would fall out! But, then, would she hide it from me like I did?

    The day my son was born I vowed to always give him the positive attention he needs, and never let life distract me from what is important. I hope I do.

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    • Isn’t it wonderful to be able to reflect on our past and resolve to act differently! You are a good mother, S – and I know you love your son unconditionally and he will certainly make mistakes in his life (maybe different ones from you!) but you will, in your wisdom, be able to be there for him…S x

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  2. parents are totally ignorant and blind to what their kids are doing with each other and strangers online. They are blind because they aren’t looking. ALL of them, not just the trouble makers. The jocks, brains, cheerleaders, nerds, goths, emos, ALL of them are engaging is abbhorant and reckless behavior. My 14 year old daughter has no smart phone, and no access to internet accept Facebook, which I monitor. It’s not enough to friend them. You have to actually get in and have access to their account, because they IM each other and then delete the IM posts so you don’t read them. They use their web cams, they go on omegle you don’t want to know what they do on there and on skype, and just on their FB private chats… good lord, parents – WAKE UP!

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    • Yes, Carrie, I totally agree that parents need to get very involved in their children’s digital explorations and it’s a balancing act – how to guide and trust them, and at the same time , leave them to learn to make wise decisions about having a digital life.

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