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I can’t help it. I love teenagers. For better or for worse—I love ‘em. There’s something that endears me about that stage in life where one day you feel almost like an adult and the next you’d rather just be a kid. Honestly, I still kind of feel that way at times. Don’t you?
But would you want to be a teenager today?
It’s easy to look at today’s generation of teenagers and say they are babied, selfish to the point of entitlement, disrespectful, and oversensitive. Perhaps the criticism is accurate in some ways. But how did they get that way? And more importantly, what can we do about it? There is no quick or simple solution, but if we understand their world, we will certainly have a lot more influence. They are living in a world that is completely different than the one we grew up in. Let’s take a peek into some of today’s teenage challenges that are tougher than in our day.
Living in a Fishbowl
It’s not just celebrities who are concerned about paparazzi. Imagine having a photographer and filming crew document your everyday activities. Think back to some of the ridiculous and immature things you did in your teen and college years. The internet has provided a public and permanent venue to display, expose, and judge mercilessly. Someone is always pulling out their phone, taking pictures and videos. Privacy is nonexistent. Now, that’s pressure I’m grateful I didn’t have growing up.
The internet is constant—always available. Of course, there are some positives to this. If you need an answer, just google it. There’s a world of resources only a tap or click away. Unfortunately, for a teenager, the negatives may outway the positives. A bullied kid cannot even find sanctuary in his own home. Cyberbullying follows him everywhere.
9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18. Kids today are exposed to violence and pornography on the internet before they are even able to process what they’re seeing, robbing them of innocence long before adulthood.
Yes, teens can choose to avoid the internet, but it’s not realistic.
Unhealthy Pressures and Expectations
The bar has been set high. But are they being asked to do so many things that nothing gets done well? Sports, advanced placement classes, college applications, FASFA, loans, and the list goes on.
With the current culture of social media exhibitionism, unhealthy sexual expectations, and pressures are at an all-time high for teens.
Rise of Single-parent Families
According to the United States Census Bureau,
Today in the U.S., around 30 percent of all families with children are headed by a single parent (versus nearly 20 percent in 1980)
Parenthood is a challenging under the best of conditions. With one parent those challenges are multiplied. Single-income, responsibilities, demands of work, housework, homework, can be overwhelming. When a parent is stretched thin financially and emotionally, the family dynamics suffer.
Decline in Biblical Morality
I included this last, but certainly, it is not least.
According to a recent Barna Group survey, regardless of what demographic one looks at, (Millennials, Gen-Xers, Boomers) Americans 18 years of age and older are worried that moral behavior is becoming a thing of the past.
However, when it comes to the agreeing on what determines right and wrong, Americans are far from standing in unison. The poll revealed most Americans rely on their own reasoning power — above God’s wisdom — to determine right from wrong. This is extremely dangerous for our teenagers.
Those whose moral compass is grounded in the Bible view morality in a much different light.
Practicing Christians (59 percent) are nearly four times more likely than adults with no faith (15 percent) to believe moral truth is absolute, the statistics show.
Christians today have an opportunity and responsibility to teach and lead by example the truth and relevance of God’s morality found only in the Bible.
The next generation is hungry for truth and real love and we must lead the way. But in order to do so, we must be able to have a level of understanding of their world along with compassion for the pressures they are facing today.
Although it is tougher than ever to be a teenager, I have had the opportunity to meet many who rise above the unfortunate stereotypes, and pressures. I will be dedicating a bi-monthly (or more) column here on Spotlight to teens and teen issues. I hope it will be enlightening and inspirational for teens as well as adults. Even if you’re long past the season of teens, we all owe it to the next generation to pass on our love and wisdom.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20