Understanding Teen Culture by Cathy Clevenger, LCSW
Parents need to be aware of increasing trends in teen culture that are unhealthy, in both secular and Christian schools. There are some students who feel the pressure to achieve academically, socially, physically and spiritually. The level of stress these teens operate under is equal to the pressure of an adult with a demanding job. These trends include:
- intense pressure to achieve
- overwhelming schedules
- increase in anxiety and depression
- increase in suicidal thoughts or attempts
- increase in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting
- peer influence and confusion regarding sexual orientation and gender identity
- teens who are escaping real life and real relationships for video games and relationships with people online
- social media dangers
Many of today’s teens are busy from early morning until they fall into bed at night. These young men and women are running on an adrenaline high all week and often even into their weekends. Teens need help in finding the balance, to set aside downtime and establish realistic goals. Parents can help with this by expressing concern and discussing the importance of learning to set boundaries, so their child has the time needed to relax and be with family and friends.
The mental health trends occurring in middle school and high school can be extremely concerning and scary for parents. The question, “What group do I belong to?” now includes a group who connect over mental symptoms. They openly talk about depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or plans. In addition, teens view “cutting” as a way to cope when life is overwhelming or depressing. While they may turn to each other for help they typically try to hide this behavior from their parents. For parents, assessing whether your teen is just being a moody teenager or if they need professional help can be difficult. Watch for symptoms or behaviors that are impairing the teen’s ability to function normally at school, home, and extra-curricular activities. For example, a sudden or even gradual decrease in academic performance may occur, as well as increased isolation for family and peers, excessive sleep, decreased energy and interests in previous areas of enjoyment.
Sexuality involves so much more than just worrying about whether your teen is sexually active. Today’s teens are trying to identify their sexual orientation (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc.) and for some teens, they are also struggling with gender identity (transgender, gender dysphoria). While other teens become entangled in sexting, having sexually explicit texts messages and sexual pictures sent via social media. Parents need to be talking to their children about these issues at the beginning of middle school. Otherwise, the only sources of information our children will have is what they hear and see at school, on television or on social media.
Expressing our values and morals, our beliefs as Christians based on scripture is so critical to preparing our children for the current culture they will encounter daily in middle school and high school.
Lastly, social media has become a dangerous arena for our children. Bullying on social media exponentially increases the audience that may observe, and laugh at, a child being bullied. Rumors spread like wildfires on social media. Social media has also led to teens sending inappropriate sexual pictures to one another, which in some cases are shared with everyone on social media at school. In addition, some teens develop relationships on social media with persons from all over the country who they have never met. They then retreat into these safer, yet superficial friendships, rather than forming relationships with peers they attend school, church or other activities. Research is indicating that our teens are not developing the social skills and relationship experience they need to interact face to face with others daily.
If you’re a parent who needs help in understanding and addressing today’s teen culture with your child, please know that we are here to help you and your family.