What is it Like to be a Young Person Today?

“What is it like to be a young person (10 to 18 years old) now?”  That was the question asked on Quora recently.  The questioner then went on: “When I was a teenager during the ‘60s and ‘70s life seemed much simpler.  No TV where I grew up, no internet, not even PCs.  Our only mass entertainment was radio and the drive-in cinema.  The only drug problems were few and far between–the ‘bad’ kids smoked cigarettes or (really naughty ones) weed. The 21st century seems hard and complicated and I feel real sympathy for youngsters who have to survive it.”

The answers offered by over a dozen kids are well worth reading—and reflect most of the salient youth trends of the Millennial era.

Major theme one: the growing structure and regimentation of everyday life by parents, schools, and communities, with ever-fewer opportunities to be alone, act on a whim, or feel free of deadlines.

Major theme two: the ubiquitous and 24/7 presence of the peer group, always monitoring, commenting on, and judging your behavior—thanks to Facebook, smartphones, and other IT wonders.  The same Millennials who testify to digital IT’s profound impact on their lives also explain how its potential to liberate individuals from the group is often overpowered by its tendency to chain individuals to the group.

Major theme three: the mounting and competitive pressure to get good grades, get into a good college, and get a good career in an era of high youth unemployment and a growing gap between rich and poor.  Many observed that all the things they had to do to acquire credentials were preventing them from gaining much understanding of how life really works.

Meanwhile, here are a few things we do not hear from these Millennials.  We don’t hear much whining.  In my youth era, kids often charged that growing up today was much worse than when their parents were growing up.  None of these Millennials say this.  (In fact, surveys show that most Millennials in K-12 today say that they have it easier than their parents.)  Also, we hear from them very little existential fear about how political, economic, environmental, or technological developments may overwhelm their future.  (There was a fair amount of such dread in my day—and again surveys confirm that this reflects a genuine shift in youth opinion over the past quarter century.)  By and large, these Millennials deliver answers that are positive, observant, and mature—as though they are used to discussing their lives and their futures with adults (probably with their parents).

via What is it Like to be a Young Person Today? | Lifecourse Blog.


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