As a parent or teacher (even outside of America, and regardless of your religion or lifestyle), have you tried to instill proper values and behavior in your own children or students, yet watched while the following values and behavior appeared instead? Have you wondered where this has been coming from?
- Requesting a bulldog
- Popularity of sushi
- Proliferation of fake ID’s and even younger high school students attempting to use them
- Underage drinking, even at home parties, where parents leave and let children party alone
- Obsession with champagne
- A sudden interest in learning Burlesque dancing
- Requesting or attempting underage driving
- Obsession with Ivy League colleges
- Teenage obsession with wearing only “designer” dresses
- Thinking it’s not normal for parents to make a “curfew” time
- The idea that even young teenagers “go where they want, and do what they want,” and that “their parents give them the freedom to do so just like adults;” they TELL their parents what they are doing, rather than ASK them.
- Girls (even young girls) acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward boys (girls insisting that they both take off clothes)
- Girls thinking that it’s normal to date older men secretly without their parents knowing about it
- Thinking that normal parents just go to bed, and “don’t wait up for their high school children who come home late.”
- Sassy, angry attitude toward any parents who question any of the above assumptions!
- The idea that “success” in life equates ONLY to how much money you have, and how “glamorous” you appear to others!
- Honesty, dependability, responsibility, and/or service to humanity are unfashionable, boring, stupid, and undesirable
- Kindness to others is “out;” while “one-upsmanship” and rude “put-downs” at the expense of others are “in”
- An expectation that life is supposed to be one continuous “party”
Any parent or teacher who is having trouble understanding teenage values and behavior today should IMMEDIATELY watch the three television series Beverly Hills 90210 ; Gossip Girl; and 90210 (a different show than Beverly Hills 90210). Even watching a couple of episodes of each show will give you an idea of where this culture is coming from. (Click on these titles for direct links to the series which should work worldwide. Make sure to start with Season 1, Episode 1.) These new values are coming directly from television.
Unfortunately, teenagers are now watching these shows WORLDWIDE. Some are watching on the internet, in English (especially with the global rise in study of English, it is now accessible). But in most countries, these shows are now dubbed in local languages, and right on the television. Not only is American culture changing, but world culture is assuming that these TV shows represent traditional American values (which they most assuredly do NOT).
The people who made these shows recognized that they are FANTASIES of how teenagers WISH their lives were. That’s what makes them fun to watch. However, unfortunately, the children who grew up watching these (without any input from their parents) grew up assuming that this is what they WOULD be able to do as teenagers, and now, the upper middle classes ARE DOING it. Some of the middle class parents don’t know that their children are behaving this way. Among more conservative families, parents should BEWARE if their child asks to spend the night with another family, because they are often going out, or even sneaking out to nightclubs. It doesn’t help that the full age of majority in many countries is 18, rather than 21.
I live in the Middle East, and throughout our region, this is exactly how most teenagers are behaving. The emphasis in our region is all on appearances to create the impression with others that you are rich (even if you are not). Most of those who are rich turn their children (even girls) loose with plenty of money and the family chauffeur (usually driving an expensive, black, four-wheel-drive vehicle) for the weekend. They certainly don’t wait up for their children to come home at night. Most of the kids have fake ID’s and go to night clubs (which don’t even open until 11). Their age is clear, but they just slip $20 to the doorman, who lets them in.
In the past couple of years, I’ve read a number of articles where generations following the baby boomers are now criticizing the work ethic of baby-boomers (born 1946-1960) and wondering where this work ethic came from. It’s very clear to me now. It came directly from TELEVISION (as well as from our parents, and from society in general).
Shows during the 1950s and 1960s (and even into the 1970s) showed children working hard, being kind, taking responsibility, and most importantly, GETTING RESPECT FROM OTHERS FOR DOING SO. Some of these shows were Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Rifleman, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie. In contrast, teenagers who behave this way today don’t get any respect from others. Instead, they get “USED BY OTHERS” (in the words of a teenager I tutor). Today, it’s showing-off and acting in accordance with the list above that gets a teenager respect from other teenagers.