Teens of Yesterday and Today   Leave a comment

The concept of the teenager never existed until the early twentieth century. Reform of child labor laws and mandating education through high school changed the perception of the years ending in teen. No longer did one go from child to adult, but now there were pre-adult years. These years became savored for its freedom from adult responsibilities.

Before the twentieth century, teens had taken on adult responsibilities and entered the world of adulthood. Today, that is no longer the norm. It is now common to have adolescence reaching well into the twenties. There are twenty something ‘kids’ living at home  that do not contribute to the household financially or by helping with daily chores. Some twenty somethings are stretching out their college years and are holding jobs, but have not yet made the leap to independence as they enter their thirties.

 The good intentions that freed our youth from long hours in factories a century ago have now created a different kind of bondage that holds our youth. Boredom and apathy plague our teens. For many, pop culture is their only interest because they have been bombarded with its mundane   messages. Our society offers a place for teens – neatly tucked away in high schools,  participating in activities such as sports, drama, various clubs, and any other activity you can think of that is run by and approved by adults.  Some youth thrive in these settings and the world of academia has always held a positive place in society for centuries. What differs now is that there are not other options offered to most teens. We force our young people out of the heartbeat of society and into the world of American high schools. That is their acceptable place and we are not comfortable when they want to venture out and demand a place in the adult world.

We do a disservice to our youth when we keep them from real responsibilities. Responsibility toward something or someone gives one a sense of purpose. In the past, the contributions made by children and teens to the family were vital to the family’s survival. They helped with farm work, child care, housework, and cooking. They knew they were needed and that their work contributed to the success of the family.

Today, so many of our teens are isolated from our communities out  in suburbs and  immersing themselves in the virtual world of Facebook and texting. They have no real responsibility toward the family. Everything is provided for them, therefore there is no need for teens to contribute anything. 

I am not advocating burdening young people with responsibilities that they are not equipped to handle. We have seen the pendulum swing from the days of children working long hours in factories to swinging too far in the other direction where no real responsibilities are presented to teens. I would like to see a happy medium.

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Posted December 31, 2010 by The Nonconformist Mom in teens

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