Friday, May 27, 2011

A Youth's Voice Rings True

Thanks to my Google News Alert, I was notified of this wonderful post by Layla Smith, a HS youth in Maryland. Her article, "Parents Just Don't Understand," is about how technology has changed the way teens live. And, if my interpretation is correct, she seems to believe that her generation is faster, more immediate, and as a result, she feels less in control of her life.

Her opening paragraph sums it up quite well:
"Today, we live in a generation where everything is not what it used to be. Today’s teens want things bigger, better, and faster, with a constant need to be entertained and fascinated. If these criteria aren’t met, it just seems wrong.  With this fast-paced generation out there one question comes to mind:  Do parents really understand what it’s like to be a teenager during these rapid changing times?"

The rest of her article goes on to somewhat blame adults for a youth's need to have everything right here and right now. To some extent, I can perceive this as "typical" adolescence, where a somewhat developmentally egocentric mind feels that her problems are larger than life, and not her fault. But, then again, Ms. Smith has a point -- as she writes, teens did not make all this new technology: adults did. And, most of the marketing and hype that has been generated around all these new gadgets is the product of adult minds whose primary goal is to sell things to teenagers by convincing them that it's essential to participate and purchase in this new technological world.  And, given that teens are socialized to believe that fitting in and looking good matter it their fault that they buy into the madness? Smith states, "As teens, we can’t control everything around us, and sometimes we have no other choice but to follow what is happening around us...This generation, Generation Z, seems to be completely unsheltered; everything is pushed in our faces and the only choice is to accept it." 

While I am still pondering whether or not teens have a real "choice" as to whether to accept or reject all this technology and its related promotions, I do know that if the thoughts of this teen ring true with many of her peers, then we as adults need to find out how we can best serve these youth by telling them it's OK to step back, slow down, and ask themselves how this technology can best meet their needs and support their lives.

1 comment:

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall said...

In my experience, a lot of adults are taken in by the media hype that they gotta have the fastest, most advanced, in your face technology right now. So it's no wonder teenagers are.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, my sense is that a lot of us use technology to fill a real social/emotional vacuum in our lives. The real problems most teenagers struggle with relate to both parents working long hours and having very little time for them - and the scarey reality that 25% probably won't find jobs in the present economy.

Don't forget that it was these basic problems that led youth in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere to start revolutions. For the moment US teenagers look to technological wonders as a pacifier, but I expect they aren't far behind the youth of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East in demanding real change.

My approach with generation Z is to acknowledge that they face enormous problems (including catastrophic climate change) in their future lives and to support them in exploring solutions. This is the theme of my recent young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW: A FABLE (