The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 29, 2001 · Page 58
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 58

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 29, 2001
Page 58
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4 in.5 teens think their parents are similar to or cooler than their friends' oarents. T TURNS OUT today's teenagei-s aren't so scary after all. Results of USA WEEKEND'S Teens & Parents survey reveal a generation of young people who get along well vnth their parents and approve of the way they're being raised. They think of their parents with affection and respect. They speak vdih Mom or Dad when they have a problem. Most feel that their parents understand them, and they believe their family is the No. 1 priority in their parents' lives. Many even think their pai'- ents are cool! Although more than a third have an teenagers admire their pai'ents and welcome parental guidance about impoi"tant matters such as career choice — though not, by a long shot, Mom and Dad's advice on matters of personal taste, such as music or fashion. When we ask teens to choose a hero, they usually select an older family member rather than a remote public figure. Most teens say they enjoy the company of both parents and Mends. Contrary to some stereotypes, most adolescents believe they must be tolerant of differences among individuals (though they do not always find this easy in the cliquish envii'onment of high school). Many of true that American families are gi'ovsong closer at the dawn of this new millennium. Perhaps there is less to fight about, with the countiy in a period of tranquility and the dangers of di-ug abuse and other unwholesome behavior well known. Perhaps in the face of impersonal and intimidating globalization, a young person's family feels more like a friendly haven than an oppressive trap. And perhaps parents are acting more like pai'ents than in the recent past: Within just the past five years, I have noticed parents retui-ning to a behef that teenagers need the guidance of elders rather than the laissez-faire, "anything goes" mode object in their rooms they would Uke to keep secret from their parents, rai'ely is it anything more alaiTning than a diai -y or off-color book or CD. A small bit of private and forbidden tenn- tory, perhaps, but not very far off the resei-vation. Such results may seem surprising against the backdrop of horrific incidents, such as Columbine and Santee, that color the way the mass media porti-ay the young. In October 2000, the same month the survey was taken, the Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affaii-s wrote in its publication Media Monitor that, in a recent month of TV news coverage of American youth, just 2% of teens were shown at home, and just 1% were poiti'ayed in a work setting. In contrast, the criminal justice system accoimted for nearly one out of every five visual backdrops. No wonder parents worry their own kids might spin out of control once they hit the turbulent waters of adolescence. The overall facts ought to reassure us. The survey shows us that today's teens are affectionate, sensible and far happier than the angi-y and tortured souls that have been painted for us by stereotypes. R-om other sources, we also know teenage crime, drug abuse and premarital sex are in general decline. We, of course, need to pay attention to youngsters who are filled with malcontent and hostility, but we should not allow these extreme cases to distort our view of most young people. My own reseai'ch at the Stanford Center on Adolescence uses in-depth interviews with small samples of youngsters rather than large-scale surveys. Still, in my studies and others I have read, I find the same patterns as in USA WEEICEND's survey Today's them volunteer for community service with disadvantaged people. One prevalent quality we have found in teens' statements about themselves, their friends and their families is a strikingly positive emotional tone. By and large, these are very nice Mds, and as the band The Who used to sing, "The kids ai-e ahight." How much is today's spirit of harmony a change from our more turbulent past? A mere generation ago, pai'ent-child relations were described as "the generation gap." Yet even then repoits of widespread youth rebellion were overdone: Most Mds in the '60s and '70s shai'ed their parents' basic values. Still, it is of chUd-reaiing that became popular in the second half of the 20th century But missing from all these data is the sense that today's young cai-e veiy much about then- counUy, about the broader civic and political environment, or about the future of their society They seem to be turning inward — generally in a pro-social manner, cei*tauily with positive benefits for intimate relationships, but too often at the expense of a connection with the present and futui-e world beyond, including the society they wiS. one day inherit. Continued on next page The \lk\M f-mm Saniaiia Hk|li School by John Schardt Things are starting to get bacl< to normal around Santana. Students are thinking about assemblies, the senior trip and prom, while trying to forget about what happened weeks ago. But that's not so easy when more incidents happen, like the shooting at Granite Hills High School. I talked to my schoolmates about the results of USA WEEKEND Magazine's Teens & Parents survey and asked if they thought it reflected the state of teens today. The students mostly validated the survey's findings and thought it was accurate and informative, though certain results were singled out and commented on. Robert Garcia, 18, a senior, was surprised that only 24% of teens had been grounded in the past 30 days. "We like to push buttons," he said. He was similarly shocked that 68% of boys said they don't hide anything in their room."There is always something your parents won't let you have, but you do anyways." Some students thought the percentage of kids who lived with both parents (63%) looked a little high, because the divorce rate is close to 50%. On more important matters, are parents really "there" for their teens today? Do kids have so much pressure on them that it causes some to commit such horrific acts? The survey results and the students I talked to seemed to feel that is not so. People are always looking for simple answers to troubling problems, but sometimes there aren't any. I can only offer a glimpse into what my fellow adolescents think. One survey is not going to give an accurate snapshot of what teens are all about. Our parents grew up under very different circumstances, both better and worse than ours. We can't fully understand what shaped them, and they can't fully understand what is shaping us. It Is and will always be a blind intersection. But in spite of this, and perhaps because of our stronger relationships with our parents, America's youth seem to be doing quite well, even given recent events. We are resigned to them, are learning to adapt and hope they won't define our generation. JOHN SCHARDT is a junior at Santana High School in Santee, Calif USA WEEKEND • April 27-29,2001 USA WEEKEND • April 27-29,2001 7

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