FEARS: TV Influence on Teens

I am saying all of this as a generation x/y-er. I was a teenager less than ten years ago… I get it. I get being young, and having people think that you are too young to understand love and sex and feelings, and everything that seems so overwhelming to you when you are in high school. I went through college, through my first relationship, my first kiss, drinking, (light innocent) drugs, college, stress, relationships, sex, frienemies, breaking and entering… been there, done that. I have also graduated from that phase. I have a great job with benefits, a husband, pets, a nutrition and cooking hobby, a mortgage, and within a year from now, a baby. I can really understand both sides.

I never watched much TV. When I was younger I watched Saved by the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, Charmed, the X-Files… things seemed pretty innocent when I was young. Are those shows so old already?! How times have changed… I just watched the first seven minutes of the first episode of the Vampire Diaries, and there was already both sex and drugs. Yes, those are both things that exist and that teenagers are aware of, but my problem is this… pop media makes it seem as if these things are the norm and passé for ninth graders. Are kids who haven’t even had relationships yet really that jaded?!

I am only 26 years old right now, and I remember my teen years vividly. I had my first kiss (that wasn’t in a game of truth-or-dare) when I was 16. I know that I had classmates who started all this stuff much earlier than I did, but did they really follow adult scripts in middle school? I hate to be that awful old grown-up, but the idea that these kinds of shows represent the average kid nowadays frightens me. What will it be like in 15 years, when my children are in high school? It’s almost enough to make me want to home school…

I don’t want schools promoting religion or weird morals, anything like that… I just don’t want kids to feel pressured to act like adults. The amazing thing about being young is that you have time to explore your own personality and figure out who you are… and to entertain crushes. To have the joy and anticipation that you only get when you like someone, and are afraid to do anything about it. It doesn’t have to turn into a relationship- kids can move from one crush to another without a qualm.

When you grow up and turn it into something real – make it about sex – then you lose the freedom to explore and enjoy all those hormones and feelings. I never thought about this until I looked through the eyes of a parent. I hate the idea that my kids would see these things and think that they have to be studs or sluts to get along. Not that they have to be prudes either, but the media and social pressure seems to dictate that people be straight, normal, followers, loose (but not too loose, lest ye be called a slut), or whatever role the particular society you live in thinks is the coolest.

I fear that my kids will be followers.

Most parents hope that their kids end up like them in a way, and I hope that my kids will be like me! In no way followers, but hopefully more confident than I was when I was their age.

Come to think of it, it’s amazing how insecure we all are when we are young. Well, maybe not everyone, but I certainly was. As an adult I still have some insecurities, but I am probably one of the most confident women that I know. I probably sound completely arrogant, I know. It’s not because I think I am awesome, though.

The summer before I left for college that I heard the phrase, “Fake it ’til you make it.” I lived by that for a while. I pretended like I was a popular girl during Freshman orientation. Hey! Nobody knew me- they had no idea that I was a completely average, forgettable, slightly nerdy girl. I just smiled and acted outgoing and friendly towards everyone. At the end of the weekend I had forgotten most names because I had met so many people, but everyone seemed to remember my name and think I was pretty cool.

I learned the key. My goal from then on was to find a balance. Be nice and friendly, and don’t care what people think! But also, listen and form a bond with people, so that you can actually remember who people are and the details about them, that make them unique. I have not mastered this – maybe it is a lack of Omega-3 or a slight case of ADHD – but my memory is not the best when it comes to names and facts about people I meet. The thing that I definitely have mastered, though, is the ability to be me. Honest and real, no matter who I am around. It can actually be a flaw in certain situations (“Brutally honest,” as I have been told from friends, and “You can’t be so open with the way you feel!” in job reviews).

There are many adults who strive for popularity still, when they may be happier if they could just relax into their skin and let themselves shine through. We all know someone who is awesome… but when they are in a group, around their co-workers, around their crush, perhaps- they try to be something else. It’s like being a teenager all over again. You don’t know who you are, so you try to be what you think other people expect or want you to be.

Followers, pretenders, fakers, lambs, lemmings, wannabes… so many words, and so many actions that kids will do in an attempt to fit in. I am afraid of the culture, and hope I can give my children the confidence they need to conquer it.


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