There are many beliefs and notions regarding teenage life that I would agree with, and equally, many that I would not. Much of these ideas are presented by ‘experts’, the people who claim to have a higher understanding of teenage life than the subjects themselves. The difference between myself and the experts, and it’s a big difference, is that I am the one who is actually living with all the things they believe they know so much about. My friends and I, we all co-exist with the problems and flaws of teenage society. We live side by side, and thankfully, we rarely touch. But existing in such close proximity to what is surely danger alters our views, enough to make them seem at ends with those of the experts.
But who are the experts? These psychologists and psychiatrists alike dedicate their lives to studying and understanding not only teenagers, but every human. Well I believe it’s impossible. You cannot predict a person’s behaviour or reactions based on statistics, paired with the person’s character profile. How can one individual possibly comprehend the mind of another? And how could you prevent yourself from going mad if it turns out that you can.
Experts always talk about the issues of the teenage years: what we have to accomplish in a short time, the dangers, the risks, the difficulties, and the struggles. It’s all we ever hear, and it is swiftly accompanied by methods of prevention: how to talk to your kids, what they need versus what they want. And it’s all clearly aimed at parents. They’ll throw around statistics, studies, and findings, and it all gets shoved down our throats until we feel wracked with guilt over actions that may have had nothing wrong with them to begin with.
But does anyone realise the problems we, as the teenagers, might have with this? Having the experts talk to your parents only and never to you (like your stupid and wouldn’t understand), having your parents feeling like they have to listen to a stranger in order to control you, being so afraid of making a mistake because it would mean ‘taking a new approach’ all over again. I imagine that it would be lonely, and more detrimental (in some instances) than it would be when no action was taken.
Communication is a delicate subject. How much is too much? How much is too little? Will there never be a universal standard as to how we, as the human race, communicate?
But teenagers do need help in these years, as long as it can start and stop when we want it. Teenagers would all benefit from having their parents there to help, and to guide them. There are going to be many things that a child moving toward adulthood would not understand and I know from personal experience that it is so emotionally beneficial to have a parent there to reassure you. But the immediate image that comes to mind is of a parent, desperate to discuss these changes with their child but not wanting to push them, and a teen, who’s desperate to know but too nervous to ask. Perhaps the hypothetical teen is afraid of how the parent will react, and perhaps the hypothetical parent is fearful of an argument between themself and the child.
Communication is beyond important. And it’s not just communication; it’s also trust and being comfortable with the people around you, having them close to you always. Having people there to lift you up and support you no matter what, is a thing that should never go unappreciated.
It’s not only a child having trust in their parent, but a parent having trust in their child. Allowing the child to make their own decisions and fend for themselves on occasion. The relationship between a child and a parent is something irreplaceable, so it stands to reason that it has unmeasurable influence on a child’s life.
But there is another type of relationship that holds high priority for any teen: friends.
Friends are of paramount importance to many teens. Friends are of high influence and can easily persuade any person, depending on how much you trust them.
Personally, I think that an individual’s relationships with others can influence them to a greater degree, then the media, the environment, anything.
And on the subject of the media, I'm sure that it does have a huge affect on some. But back to my previous point, a specific group of people, such as teenagers, can’t be rounded up into a ball of generalisations based on statistics and averages. So, a ‘percentage’ of teens would be highly and negatively affected by the images of the media (body image, social pressure etc.). And a ‘percentage’ of teens are hardly affected at all. And naturally there is another percentage situated directly in between the two. As to the debate that the media projects negative images, of course that’s true, but by who’s standard are the images negative? Clearly not the standards of the people running the TV stations, the newspapers, the magazines, the radios. Maybe there is something wrong with the censoring of the media. But who am I to say so?
Technology as a whole presents both problems, and advantages.
Advantages, for teenagers especially, include better communication and time-saving with things such as mobile phones, iPods, and the internet. Gone are the days of sending a letter to plan an outing, getting up to change a record, and going to the library to gather information for homework.
The disadvantages include being bombarded with useless images and harmful ideas, all of which hinder rather than help. And then there is the classic and the all-important issue of cyber-bullying. Undoubtedly a tragedy for any teen and even adult, cyber-bullying leaves victims scarred and even depressed. What people don’t realise is that if you were to be cyber-bullied, it’s not as if the perpetrators are strangers. You know all of them and they know you. These are the people in your school, in your class or even in your circle of friends, the people you have to see every day. But everyone reacts differently, and not everyone responds to help when it’s offered. So no counter-action or prevention technique is fool-proof, no matter how hard you try.
And technology goes hand in hand with another problem: alcohol.
Alcohol ruins lives, it’s a fact. Sure it’s okay to have a drink now and then, but at least when you’re over the legal drinking age. And though I criticise experts’ data so much, studies have shown that the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties, so any damage done by alcohol before then is exaggerated.
Alcohol makes people crazy, some people are simply rendered to a relaxed state, and some black-out completely. Black-outs can mean that you’ve done something horrible, or that you’ve done something you’ll regret later when it comes back to haunt you. On average, one teenager dies every weekend from alcohol related incidences, a statistic that shouldn’t ever exist. It’s sad that so many young people have died, and even if just to help others, have become a figure in a statistic.
Naturally, you’ll never be able to eliminate alcohol from teenage culture. Not only do we have alcohol, but we have binge-drinking, rave parties, underground nightclubs and more.
From my point of view, that of a teen, the thing that would most deter me from drinking in excess, would be knowing the affects. Similar to how I would never smoke, because I know about its link to cancer and other diseases. The beginning of this education starts at home.
My mum and my family allowed me to have maybe a few drops of wine diluted down with lots of water, but only on special occasions. Now some would say that such behaviour would only encourage me to drink in later life. But, paired with my early tastings of wine, would be constant reminders of how dangerous alcohol is, and such things were drummed into me until I fully understood. So further education into the affects and damage caused by alcohol consumption is essential if such horrific statistics are ever to be lowered. I also think that utilising the media to project confronting images of dangerous, drunken behaviour would help. This has already started with the “Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare” campaign.
Until such time as these problems have lessened, teenagers will just have to deal with it, myself included, which shouldn’t be too difficult.
A decent reality check is that being a teenager doesn’t have to be difficult. But you need priorities, motivation, goals, everything that they say we need. Teenagers don’t have to go out and ‘party’, we don’t have to have mobile phones or iPods, and we certainly don’t have to do drugs or consume copious amounts of alcohol. These are all choices. Yes they are bad choices. But nonetheless, they are choices made at will. And not having the will or the want to do some things makes all the difference. Regardless of influences or pressures, the thing to remember is that all the consequences of a person’s behaviour lies on the shoulders of that person alone, and they are the only ones that can be held accountable. Sadly, not everyone realises this, and so teens do make mistakes, often. And sometimes those mistakes can have dreadful repercussions.
And yes that is sad, but life at 15? For me it hasn’t had to be anything more than a challenge.
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