New Faces of Teens - How Life Has Changed and How It Has Not
Let’s say you live at the turn of the last century. You start to become attracted to another teen; something interests you about that person—their looks, smile, personality, something. You may not even know what attracts you—you just want to find out more about that person and you want that person to find out more about you. So what do you do? Do you ask them out to share a meal alone with you? Nope! Dating three generations ago was a very different thing than it is today.
In most societies, a young woman was never allowed to be outside alone, much less be with a boy without adult supervision. Getting to know someone is a very slow process that involved parents and chaperones, and there wasn’t very much private time. At that time, even in some parts of American society, fathers selected grooms for their daughters, and couples barely dated at all before they were married. Can you imagine getting married to someone with whom you never went out?
The past century has flown by. And now, as we enter the new century, dating without chaperones has become a standard of the teen scene. While the rules of the game have changed, some of the same questions, jitters, and worries that your great-grandparents certainly had remain today for every teen trying to play this game:
· How do you ask this person out?
· What if this person says “no”?
· What do I do to get to know this person better?
· How can I tell this person about myself?
· Will this person like me?
Your great-grandparents didn’t quite think about dropping over to someone’s house to listen to CDs in their bedroom, but I guarantee you that they—as did your grandparents and your parents—had some of these same thoughts and concerns that you have today. We always see ourselves so differently from those who are older than us, and sometimes we can hardly imagine that our parents were ever teenagers. But, while members of each generation face distinct challenges growing up, they also share some of the same emotions and struggles as their ancestors did when they were the same age. I guarantee you that your parents had some butterflies in their stomachs before many of their dates!
Today’s Teen Scene
Take a look at your generation. Believe it or not, you’re part of a pretty powerful contingent (though it may not seem like it when you’re trying to borrow the car). You and your peers support a huge amount of business. As a group, you have money—and spend a lot of it on clothes, music, food, concert tickets, and books. What you want to see on TV and in the movies determines much of what goes on the screen!
There’s no doubt about it: You are a major force in this country and across the planet in terms of your numbers, economic power, and trend-setting. Industries to supply your wants and needs, agencies address your risks and concerns, and the media follow you around wherever you go. The youth in the modern world set the style for fellow teens around the world.
In fact, the teen scene begins earlier than the official thirteenth birthday. Younger pre-teen brothers and sisters in middle school (or junior high, as it is called in some places) are taking more and more of their cues from high school students.
And although sixth graders may not be dating the way their older counterparts are, it is right around the corner for some. In fact, many pre-teens are deep into relationships. A 12-year-old told me that he was “dating” and even “going steady”—but to him and his peers that only meant eating lunch at school every day with one special girl. For this “couple”—and for their social group—it was a date for all the same reasons older teens go on a date. They talked and got to know each other.
Look at how open life seems to be today! If you watch TV, use computers, read magazines, and go to movies, you can see the whole world. How about MTV alone? At the very least, you see a whole range of ways people interact with one another, as well as different images of dating and being together. The media gives you several examples of both the adult and teen world.
Conversation can be free-flowing as well. It seems like you can talk about anything at all—sex, drugs, money, religion—you name it. You are actually able to talk to friends and family about questions, experiences, and problems. Don’t be misled, however, into thinking that there are no limits. Teens are still considered minors and legally do not have the same freedoms and rights as adults have. We may live in an open society, but minors are minors and parents are still in control in many areas.
It is now, more than ever, to call and act for the teens. Not to sound very overly protected on their means but to serve purposely as mere guidance to their ever-growing needs and actuations as well.