A Youth’s Voice Rings True

Thanks to my Google News Alert, I was notified of this wonderful post by Layla Smith, a HS youth in Maryland. Her article, “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” is about how technology has changed the way teens live. And, if my interpretation is correct, she seems to believe that her generation is faster, more immediate, and as a result, she feels less in control of her life.

Her opening paragraph sums it up quite well:
“Today, we live in a generation where everything is not what it used to be. Today’s teens want things bigger, better, and faster, with a constant need to be entertained and fascinated. If these criteria aren’t met, it just seems wrong.  With this fast-paced generation out there one question comes to mind:  Do parents really understand what it’s like to be a teenager during these rapid changing times?”

The rest of her article goes on to somewhat blame adults for a youth’s need to have everything right here and right now. To some extent, I can perceive this as “typical” adolescence, where a somewhat developmentally egocentric mind feels that her problems are larger than life, and not her fault. But, then again, Ms. Smith has a point — as she writes, teens did not make all this new technology: adults did. And, most of the marketing and hype that has been generated around all these new gadgets is the product of adult minds whose primary goal is to sell things to teenagers by convincing them that it’s essential to participate and purchase in this new technological world.  And, given that teens are socialized to believe that fitting in and looking good matter …is it their fault that they buy into the madness? Smith states, “As teens, we can’t control everything around us, and sometimes we have no other choice but to follow what is happening around us…This generation, Generation Z, seems to be completely unsheltered; everything is pushed in our faces and the only choice is to accept it.” 

While I am still pondering whether or not teens have a real “choice” as to whether to accept or reject all this technology and its related promotions, I do know that if the thoughts of this teen ring true with many of her peers, then we as adults need to find out how we can best serve these youth by telling them it’s OK to step back, slow down, and ask themselves how this technology can best meet their needs and support their lives.

Teens share risky photos online

Finally! Researchers are starting to catch on to what teens are doing online! The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released its findings on the sharing of photos online and reveal that 22 percent of all teen girls say they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

Although not surprising, this next statistic is the one that should make teens think: One-third of teen boys and one-quarter of teen girls say they have had nude/semi-nude images — originally meant to be private — shared with them. The message? If you send it out, others will see it — and you can’t control who those others are.

It’s hard for a teen to imagine that their situation is just like any other. They want to believe that they can trust their friends and/or partners to not pass on things meant for their eyes only. But the reality is, is that teens like to be a part of things — and those things sometimes include gossip and what they consider “fun.” Just as a teen may be all-too-quick to think it’s a good idea to flash for the camera, another teen sees only the good in passing that photo onto others as they hastily hit the “forward” button.

Yet another call for electronic media literacy.

You can read the full report Sex and Tech here. But you can bet I will be spending more time talking about the results soon!

So Much for Truth in Advertising…

Based on a lawsuit brought on my an anti-abortion Christian group, Google is now allowing religious organizations to use the keyword “abortion” in their ads, according to the New York Times. This means that the sponsored links of these groups will be called up much like those from secular groups, doctors offering abortions and resource sites like Our Bodies, Ourselves. According to the article, Google will only allow “ads linked to abortion from religious groups as long as they were determined to be factual, and not graphic or emotional ads.” Hmmm. When was the last time I saw a factual anti-choice web site? Like, never. That’s when.

Rulings like these make it more important to teach media literacy to all people — young and old. Everyone needs to know how to assess a web site for quality information, and be wary of all sites that come up in the sponsored links, but not very high up in a regular search. This needs to be taught in the schools as soon as kids start to surf the net all the way through college. This resource is a great one for young people. Created in the UK, it takes a person through a series of questions designed to determine whether a web site’s information is reliable and accurate. If we all took the time to think about the information we are reading, and the biases behind it, I wouldn’t be so concerned about this latest news article.