At the end of this month, I will turn 40 and I am not upset about it one bit. I did all the things one should do and more: worked minimum wage jobs as a teenager, served my country in uniform, paid my bills and taxes, traveled the world, put myself through college, got married…then divorced, married again, and had a family. .
I’m checking off those life experience boxes like a master of to-do lists. Many of my experiences are unique rites of passage, and some are unique to the path I chose as an adult—but they all have something in common; They are all related to growing up.
Unfortunately, study after study over the past few years has shown that young Americans are less likely to take on the typical acts of adulthood, preferring instead to remain the comfortable teenage, less exciting lives a la Peter Pan.
So let’s dive in and see if these young lost boys and girls can be tinkerbelled into highly functioning adults.
General Z? Hi, may I introduce you to your boss, Gen X: pic.twitter.com/PA5rlj0OR2
— LarryAlexTaunton.com (@LarryTaunton) January 2, 2023
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At the end of puberty
The graph is making its rounds from a 2016 study that showed the average American 12th grader is significantly more risk-averse than their 1976 counterparts. Some might say that’s not so bad; Perhaps these 17- and 18-year-olds are engaging less in alcohol, sexual activity and drugs.
Risk avoidance is the best quality. However, the areas measured in this study included significant decreases in 12th graders who did the following:
- Got a driving license
- Went on a date
- Worked for wages
Data shows that American teenagers become less independent and more risk-averse over time pic.twitter.com/cGZTsukiNh
— Alec Stapp (@AlecStapp) January 6, 2023
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As a teenager, I had no choice but to give up my driver’s license and I couldn’t even own my own car after getting my license. In my day it was also necessary to have a license to join the military.
And when it came to dating, even though I wasn’t one to bother, I would go on the occasional movie date and homecoming dance, where my mom would make my bangs reach new physics-defying heights and make me glow from head to toe (don’t judge because it’s the late 90s).
And when the time came when I wanted to buy my own clothes, I earned minimum wage jobs after school and during the summer with my own money.
So why the decline? The answer is obvious.
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It’s our fault
It is natural for every generation to want their children to have a better life than theirs; After all, we love our children and want them to be happy. But, unfortunately, we have succeeded in spoiling them in eternal infancy.
Let’s talk about getting a job. In 1979 60% of American teenagers were employed; In 2021, that number drops to 30.5%.
I’ve known countless parents who said they wouldn’t let their kids work because they wanted their kids to “enjoy their teenage years” and “focus on high school.” In theory, great. However, this is a terrible idea.
Having a job as a teenager teaches you valuable life skills like answering the telephone, providing information to customers, counting change, and perhaps most importantly, finding the value of time and money and dignity in work. Now let’s talk about that driving license.
Back in my day, you couldn’t wait to get your license because it meant freedom; You can escape from the chains of your parent’s units and go somewhere other than your home. However, in my day, there was no addictive escape from the screen.
Pew Research found that in 2020, 80% of American parents said their children between the ages of 5 and 11 owned a tablet or screen device. 48% of parents with children under 5 said the same.
This brings me to the greatest threat to our country, the decline of the American community.
gen z: *mocking the old gens*
Old Clans: Ugh. One day you will reach our age you know 🙄🙄
Gen Z: pic.twitter.com/BplLLUEcpx
— Worm Food ✨🌸✨ (@frogs4girls) January 1, 2023
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A simulated reality
Americans spend about 7 hours a day browsing the Internet in some capacity. Now, I spend a lot of time in front of a screen because of my job as your friendly spice writer, but I don’t spend much time browsing the internet.
Thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, everyone and I mean everyone is addicted to their phones. It’s not an age thing; A lot of your old folks are glued to your Facebook feed.
But that certainly doesn’t help the younger generation of Americans taught by parents and tablets. As a result, Americans are going through a “social recession,” with 12% saying they have no close friends, up from 2% in 2003.
No wonder there is a mental health epidemic in this country. The famous psychologist Carl Jung once said:
“Personal meaning comes when people feel they are living a symbolic life, when they feel they are actors in a divine drama.”
Suppose your life consists of watching the simulated lives of others online and trying to imitate and project the same fantasy. In that case, you are not living, our youth today are suffering from it.
— Min Jin Lee (@minjinlee11) January 3, 2023
Bring Back Bridge Night
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. He made a good point about how easy it is to bring up problems and never offer any solutions. So when my day job required me to point out problems, I decided to find a solution. The way to help our young teens and adults grow is simple: bring communities back.
I am not talking about communities in general architectural structure; I think real communities are built on connecting with one another.
As economist Bryce Ward notes, because of technology:
“We’re exercising more alone … we’re shopping more alone … time at rotary clubs and bowling leagues and all that stuff … it’s all gone down.”
We don’t hang out anymore, regardless of age and demographic, which has left us all pretty sad and lonely. A 1999 Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. In 2020, that number has dropped to 47%.
It’s time to relearn how to look each other in the eye, enjoy a meal without your phone, engage with other people through shared interests like faith, volunteering, or hell, invite your neighbors to learn how to pay the bridge together. And it’s a hard thing and actually a time for parents to do.
Parenting is difficult; It should be, but if we allow it to be done to us through screens, our children will forever be doomed to be lost boys and girls. Say “no” to tablets and yes to board games – surprisingly, our three-year-old son is quite adept. Sorry!.
And finally, when your child is of legal age, drive them to fill out job applications and teach them how to drive. We all have to grow up one day, and it’s not a bad thing – I promise.
There is nothing scary about Gen Z
Totally typical behavior and we should continue as normal pic.twitter.com/3NE4YyvMnQ
— Will O’Brien🕊 (@willobri) January 2, 2023
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