Keeping up with the latest teen trends is an exhausting and often impossible task. Just when we parents think we have wrapped our minds around a social media app or trendy phrase, a newer and “cooler” trend is born. Our teens face so many obstacles and pressures — ones that we have never had to face. Before we address a few teen trends, it’s important to understand the profile of a teen in today’s world..
Profile of a Teen
Teens today are faced with trying to be “perfect” academically, athletically, artistically, and socially. Students spend 35 hours a week in a classroom and take at least five or more advanced academic courses per year with growing pressure to consistently increase rigor. Ten years ago, top students graduated with only a handful of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Now, it is common for the top of the class to graduate with 12+ APs. In addition to rigor, students are asked to perform almost perfectly on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams. Students often seek individual tutoring to raise their scores, which adds several more hours of “homework” on to a student’s already heavy load. Who can blame them for seeking extra test prep help when the top two universities in the state tout an average incoming freshman admission ACT score of a 31 and 32 (a perfect score on the ACT is a 36)?
These top schools look to admit students who have robust resumes filled with community service, sports, clubs, performing arts, and more. Between after-school practices and homework, many students find that they are only getting five to six hours of sleep per night. This schedule hardly leaves time for the most important aspect of a teenager’s world — his or her social life! With what little time is left, students feel that they have to post, snap, and respond to messages in order to stay “in the know” and be relevant. More and more, this generation feels the pressure to be “insta-famous” and to always publish their personal “highlight” reel. Are you exhausted just reading about everything a teenager does in a day? Well, they are too! Below are just a few teen trends that our students face in addition to these normal day-to-day activities.
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a great way to stay connected to people and find out news. It is shocking that although many students have a phone full of contacts and hundreds, if not thousands, of followers, they still feel disconnected and alone. Social media has become the “playground” for bullying and it’s extremely important for parents to set good boundaries for apps and phone use.
The amount of diagnosed (and undiagnosed) cases of mental health issues have steadily climbed in the past ten years. Given the social media and performance pressures they face, this increase is an unfortunate side effect. Anxiety and depression among teens, which negatively affects their academic and social life, is becoming more prevalent. No matter the issue, it’s crucial to get a proper diagnosis and follow through with a treatment plan. Remind your teen that they are not alone and it's possible to get some help.
Alcohol and Drugs
Peer pressure, along with the pressures of everyday life, can often cause a perfect storm that leads to students experimenting with alcohol and drugs. As we learned from the MPCS ParentEd. session on "The Venom of Vaping” this past fall, new research shows that long-term drug and alcohol use isn’t caused by “gateway drugs,” but by age of first use. So the earlier a person starts with drugs and alcohol, the higher their chances are of developing a long-term substance abuse issue and the more damage they do to their developing brain.
Be vigilant about alcohol in your home. This includes knowing what you have and making sure that it is not in an accessible location. You may be confident that your child would never drink, but when friends are together, all it takes is for one person to convince everyone else to participate. Prescription drugs, such as opioids, narcotics, and amphetamines must be monitored each day. Count the number of pills that are in the bottle and keep the bottle in a locked cabinet. Make sure that if your child has to take a pill, like Adderall, that you only hand them his or her dose and watch them take it.
The newest fad is vaping — more specifically, Juuling. This device can fit into the palm of a hand and looks much like a USB stick. The pods contain nicotine and one pod equals the same amount of nicotine in an entire pack of cigarettes. Taking one hit of the juul is like smoking one cigarette, so the buzz is is often described as more intense. Juuls are easy to hide and the vapors emitted don’t smell like cigarette smoke.
First, open communication with your child is key! With all of the busy schedules, it’s important to make time to talk with your child about what’s going on in his or her life and get a pulse on how he or she is feeling. This is also an excellent teaching opportunity. Coach your child on what to say to a teacher or help them to look at his or her to-do list and prioritize. We recommend you do this often. Second, talk to your child about your family’s expectations for behavior and what they should do if they find themselves in a sticky situation. Give them a “code word” to use if they are ever in an uncomfortable situation and want to leave. Finally, don’t assume your child would never do ________ (insert behavior here). We all think the best of our children, but no one is perfect and we all fall prey to sin. If you do suspect your child needs help, reach out to professionals, such as doctors, counselors, psychologists, etc. Identifying the issue and coming up with a plan is the best way to help teens if they are in crisis. Remember, Mount Paran Christian School is here to partner with parents at home, so never hesitate to reach out if you need guidance on an issue with your teenager.
Viola Lussier serves as the high school counselor at Mount Paran Christian School. For more of our ParentEd. series blogs, see below:
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