Lilly’s Blog: An Open Letter to Adults About Teen Sexting, Sneakiness and Apathy

By | July 26th, 2012 | 9 comments

Dear Grown-Up,

We should sit down and talk sometime. Soon. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of intergenerational smack talk. But I’m not hearing kids my age complain about their teachers, coaches and parents. Instead the generation gap is clogged with adults’ complaints about teenagers. So, hopefully, I can put some worries to rest, MythBusters style.

Myth 1: Adolescents Aren’t Doing Anything About Anything

As kids, I think we were all told by our parents at one point or another to go outside and play. The assumption that kids habitually waste their free time rears its ugly head during adolescence. And this time it has pimples and braces.  While teenagers admittedly do spend a lot of time on the computer, in front of the TV or tethered to their phones, our lives are not devoid of purposeful pastimes.

Julie Z, of Fbomb fame, begins her great blog about Jessica Watson (a sixteen-year-old Australian who plans to sail around the world solo) by saying “It really pisses me off when adults assume that girls my age are the most vapid, self-centered generation to ever have come along.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In fact, I think kids my age do more than previous generations. Take my friend and fellow blogger, Fiona, for an example. She is an ace debater and a songwriter, she has her own blog and she interns for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Fiona is just one of dozens of kids I know developing amazing talents and giving back to their communities in tangible ways (did I mention I met Fiona at a young women’s political leadership retreat?) I think it’s pretty cool that my generation has figured out how to start saving the world…and make it home in time to watch Jersey Shore.

Myth 2: We’re All Sexting

Sexting, the practice of sending naked pictures of yourself to someone’s phone, terrifies parents and rightfully so. But there’s good news. Despite the headlines designed to scare parents silly, new studies show that few teenagers actually sext.  Sexting is just one example of many things adults seem to think all teenagers do all the time.

Sure, some teenagers drink. Some teenagers are sexually active. But for the overwhelming majority of teenagers, life is not a Lifetime movie. Binge drinking and pregnancy pacts make for interesting movies but good TV rarely translates into an accurate portrayal of adolescence.

If my friends and I actually behaved like our counterparts on TV, in movies and in shock-value news stories, few of us would make it to college. When teenagers see the newspaper article or feature on the evening news about an abusive parent, predatory teacher or violent coach, we don’t assume that the adults in our lives will act in similar ways. The next time teenagers make headlines, give the young adults in your life the same benefit of the doubt.

Myth 3: It’s All Out War. And We’re Winning.

Adults may underestimate teenagers’ involvement in meaningful activities and their ability to keep their pants on, but they wildly overestimate kids’ sneakiness. Recently, I was shocked to find out that many parents think their teenagers have two Facebook accounts: one family-friendly version and a secret R rated version. That’s so tricky! But that’s also so labor-intensive!

I don’t know anyone who has done that because, generally, we aren’t trying that hard to hide things from you. A lot of us don’t even have much to hide.  This business of hypothesizing what tactic we’ll use next to throw adults off our trails is a bit ridiculous.

To make matters worse, adults are hacking into their teenagers’ computers, listening in on phone conversations, and putting tracking devices in cars. Adults seem to be trying to beat us at our own game. But, when it comes to high-tech trickery, elaborate lies and one-upmanship, we’re not playing.

You know that shirt that says “You can’t scare me, I have teenagers?” Well, I am a teenager and there are a lot of things for me to be scared about. But being vilified by adults should not be one of those things. So consider this my white flag. Can we, like, go back to being BFF now?

Fondly,
A teenager

 

**This post was originally published on February 9th, 2010**

Lilly graduated from high school in June 2010 and was a weekly guest blogger for RachelSimmons.com. Read more about her here.


9 Responses to “Lilly’s Blog: An Open Letter to Adults About Teen Sexting, Sneakiness and Apathy”

  • Ronie James says:

    I must acknowledge that this is the first time I’ve ever read anything on this website, passed on from a link. This entry expresses so much honesty about such absurd resentment. There are many people who share your viewpoint, and are fighting to make people aware that teens aren’t so stupid, and deserve to be treated as the people they are, not the people they’re assumed to be. The link in my name is to a site for people like that. It’s the official site for an organization called the National Youth Rights Association. I got the link to come here through their forums. I’d be honored if you took a minute to look at the site, even if you looked once, left and never mentioned it again, it’d be amazing for it to occur.

  • [...] that speak to what I related in this section. On the day that I recorded this, I also found this interesting open letter to parents about what teens are up to. It really speaks about the scare tactics in this society aimed towards [...]

  • Ryan Luchs says:

    I must acknowledge that this is the first time I’ve ever read anything on this website, passed on from a link. This entry expresses so much honesty about such absurd resentment. There are many people who share your viewpoint, and are fighting to make people aware that teens aren’t so stupid, and deserve to be treated as the people they are, not the people they’re assumed to be. The link in my name is to a site for people like that. It’s the official site for an organization called the National Youth Rights Association. I got the link to come here through their forums. I’d be honored if you took a minute to look at the site, even if you looked once, left and never mentioned it again, it’d be amazing for it to occur.

    • Much appreciated, Ryan.

      Teenagers and young people do have more political power in their own right than many may realise.

      Thank you again for the National Youth Rights Association.

      And I’m glad you chose to come to Lily’s blog.

    • Rachel Simmons says:

      Hey Ryan, thanks for stopping by – I’ll definitely check out your site! Lilly and I appreciate your support of this post.

  • Silver Fang says:

    Adults always want something to bitch about. Teens make an easy target. People imagine vices that 90% of teens don’t indulge in. Teens re targets because they have no political power.

  • [...] read this and twittered it but it’s worth posting again.  Lilly is bright and I enjoy this blog. Lily [...]

  • Excellent post as always, Lilly…

    The helicopter parents prob is a huge one; and I’m constantly trying to tamp down flames of sensationalism on the sexting front; but it really doesn’t help when corporate coffers are lined with ‘bottom feeders’ asking girls to post their butts online (Please help get the word out on the American Apparel girlcott petition that Rachel and I are BOTH supporting: http://bit.ly/cpNnkK )

    Also, there ARE some alerts that adults AND teens should be advised of (like the nefarious netbots called ‘flirt bots’ to usurp your digital data as I wrote about yesterday in the ramp up to Valentine’s Day: http://j.mp/91nMiI but again, this is less of a ‘teen scene’ concern and more of a hacker/privacy issue one. (see PC Tools/PCAdvisory mag)

    Overall, I think the bubble-wrapping dynamic is driven by media misinterpretation and ratings games (not to mention some techno tools that aren’t doing teens many favors by CREATING some panics, like the daily ‘grades’ updates plopped into a parents’ inbox leading to micromanagement of academic assignments when kids used to just get plain ol’ paper report cards sans updates of ‘what’s due’ every nanosecond!

    I think digital nagging, tracking, social media status updating etc. is becoming an apocalyptic generational divide causing needless angst and furor.

    If I were a teen I’d feel violated and stalked…Listen up, parents. Lilly’s prose should give you a bracer of a reality check. If not, why not?

  • Merci, Lily.

    Maggie Hamilton is one of the people who thinks that teenagers might have one website for their parents and another for their friends.

    I think I remember either Rachel Simmons or Alyssa Quart discussing this make-up ad: “11:15 at the mall. 3:15 home to your mother”: the duplicity of it all.

    And it is adults being duplicitious in the name of protection.

    Yes, I see the hypocrisy in this.

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