Youth Endangered

My wife and I have been working with 'at risk' teens since about 1984.  We have gotten to know over 100 teens very well and still hear from many of them.  We've probably been in contact with closer to 5,000.  They have all taught us some things you should know.  First is that teens have the same needs that they did when I was a teenager; they need to know they're accepted by their peers, that they are valuable and are valued by their parents, and they often think their parents are absolutely stupid because they don't listen.  But there are some differences that are changing the future of our society. The most important one is that the parents of this generation of teens are first generation techno-barbarians. 

What is a techno-barb?  It is any one of us that uses technology in such a way that it causes their behavior, intentional or not, to be barbaric.  Teens do it all the time but adults are equally as guilty.  For instance: I watched a healthy well built person in their 30's walk up a steep hill, on a sidewalk, texting on their phone while listening to music with ear-buds.  Halfway up this hill was an extremely busy cross street with a 45 mph speed limit.  This pedestrian didn't even notice that the light was red in their direction.  Instead they kept on texting and listening, stepped off the curb and crossed the street oblivious to the cars swerving, horns honking, screeching tires, and unsavory comments.  She never even noticed and kept walking as if nothing was going on around her.  It was like something out of a comedy.  It was, in a word, barbaric!  This person was nearly killed, they could also have hurt or killed a number of other people and not even cared! That's barbaric.

If that's you then I'm sorry for your children because they are lonely, are often barked-at for interrupting, they are rarely listened to, and they are scolded for being late because you didn't hear their pleading about the time because you were talking on the phone.  This type of treatment is causing our teens to crumble.  Moms and Dads spend an inordinate amount of time with their nose in a computer or a smartphone or a game counsel.  We don't see or hear our children and they feel invisible.  They need something to make themselves feel real.  So they get into behavior that balances the treatment they get from their parents and their loneliness.  They do things like cutting, sex, stealing, general hatred, or they become drug addicts or alcoholics.  Most often we see a combination of these things but there is another facet.

The worst of the worst is that all teens see their parent's behavior and they emulate it.  Parents are teachers whether we like it or not.  Parents on phones teach their children that having and using a smart phone is important and a grown-up thing to do.  Grown-ups are teaching that things like being distracted and unavailable and behaving barbarically is normal, and that the world revolves around electronic gadgets and the distractions they provide.  It's simple math.  The teens of today are going to make the parents of today look like saints because they're going to be even more barbaric.

I think the thing that really boils my biscuit is the people who this applies to will never read any article like this - because they're too self-absorbed.  They are too busy talking on the phone or playing a game.  We are in trouble!  And I can't wait to read an article about what happens when we add parental mental and or physical illness to this mix.