Lilly's Blog: An Open Letter to Adults About Teen Sexting, Sneakiness and Apathy
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?
**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.