If you judge solely by pop music, being a teenager is epic and effortless. “Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire,” the band Fun. sings triumphantly about the awesomeness of teen living. Sounds great—unless you’ve ever been a teenager yourself, and then you know it’s totally bogus.
Not only are teens today not “setting the world on fire” with any regularity, but they’re also struggling to get through the day with even a shred of self-esteem and a healthy resting heart rate. The only people who think teenage years are the best years of life are those too far removed from their youth to remember it with anything remotely accurate. Also, the teenage experience has gotten substantially worse in recent years, thanks to things like the Internet and social media, and neurologists are actually busy studying teenage brains right now to find out exactly how bizarre things are getting.
If you’ve been having a rough day, we have just the pick-me-up for you. Here are 20 facts that will remind you how excruciatingly awful it can be to inhabit a teenage body, why it’s harder now than ever before, and why you are so, so lucky to have those years in your rearview mirror. So read on—and to learn more ways that today’s teens have it much worse, check out these 27 Ways High School Has Gotten So Much More Horrifying Since You Were a Teen.
Their Internet usage is full-blown addiction.
It’s amazing that teens today have any free time to interact with the outside world, given how much time they devote to what’s happening on the Internet. According to a report from Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours online every day. (And if you thought high school bullies were bad, wait until you hear about cyberbullies.)
That’s right: Today’s teens with smartphones spend a full workday’s worth of time—plus overtime!—online. And, as you’ll learn, spending a lot of time online is a recipe for feeling terrible about yourself. And if you suffer from smartphone addiction yourself, check out these 20 Great Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.
Cyberbullying is way worse than you thought.
Suffering bullies is easily one of the worst things about being a teenager. But it’s gotten so much worse for the modern teen, because bullies can now get to bullying 24/7, thanks to the Internet.
Yes, bullies can now practice their craft at any time or place, not just during school hours. But we’re not talking about just name-calling, taunting, or lunch-money theft. No, one of the worst forms of cyberbullying is the insidious spreading of false information that can damage not only someone’s self-esteem but also his or her reputation. According to StopBullying.gov, “A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.”
That’s right: cyberbullying for all parties involved can have consequences that truly echo through life well into adulthood. Yikes! And if you want to learn more about the negative effects of social media, learn the 20 Ways Social Media Stresses Us Out.
They have way too many extracurricular demands.
If you want to get into a great college in 2018, you need an application with a lot more on it than a great SAT score, a solid GPA, and maybe or sport or two. Teens these days have to juggle countless extracurricular activities covering a variety of disciplines if they want to distinguish themselves from their peers in admissions offices across the nation.
But like so many things in life we think makes perfect sense—”more extracurriculars can’t be a bad thing, right?”—the truth is vastly more complicated.
In fact, recent studies have shown that the burden of all these activities on young teens can be too much. “We are concerned that students in these selective, high pressure high schools can get burned out even before they reach college,” said Noelle Leonard, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing (NYUCN). “School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat—that’s what it can be for some of these students.”
First heartbreak is the worst heartbreak.
Nothing hurts quite as much as the first time you fall hard for somebody until, one day, they reach into your chest, pull out your still-beating heart, and throw it to the floor before stomping on it repeatedly. Hey, it happens to the best of us. But that time your girlfriend or boyfriend dumped you at the school dance? Or in the school parking lot? Or at the drive-in? Guess what? That doesn’t happen anymore.
Today, kids don’t even go as a far as to even tell the other person they’re breaking up with them. No, they get ghosted. Or they engage in some “breadcrumbing.” There’s also “orbiting,” “phubbing,” “benching,” and “cushioning.” Don’t know what those are? You’re not alone. Here are the 20 Online Dating Terms Older People Don’t Know. Just know that young love today has never been so complicated or painful. I honestly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
They live in fear of school violence.
Today’s kids don’t think it’s unusual to go to school and see armed security guards, metal detectors at every entrance, and policemen who walk them through active shooter drills. Even more sobering: According to a Pew Research survey, 57 percent of modern teens are either very or somewhat worried about a school shooting happening at their school.
They’re losing their hearing.
Teens love their earbuds, but they’re not always careful with the volume control. Studies have indicated that one in every five U.S. teens already has experienced hearing loss. How terrifying!
There’s overwhelming pressure to have a perfect life.
A survey in the U.K. found that 60 percent of young teens felt the pressure to “look perfect” on social media. According to other reports, social media has been credited for helping spur the sharp rise in eating disorders in recent years.
“We do know that in some cases the trigger [for an eating disorder] can be abuse in childhood,” Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, told The Independent. “We also know that the 24/7 nature of social media places huge pressures on our children and young people which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues. And society is increasingly bombarded with celebrities and airbrushed images which give an impossible view of what ‘beautiful’ is.”
There is no-joke pressure to be a celebrity.
Every kid dreams of being a beloved celebrity one day, whether it’s acting, playing sports, or becoming an astronaut. But in today’s day and age, being famous isn’t just a fun daydream to pass the time.
No, today’s kids experience an immense amount of pressure to garner as many followers and likes as they possibly can, building their “brand” from an early age. Even more intense: countless kids these days host their own YouTube shows and actively compete for millions of followers. And when you were 16 years old, you thought your science project was stressful!
Thanks to Facebook their parents can embarrass them remotely
Parents are hardwired to embarrass their kids, but at least back in a pre-Internet age, they had limited opportunities to do so. But now all parents are on social media, finding new ways to mortify their teen children in front of their friends. Is there anything as horrifying as Dad “liking” (or heaven forbid, commenting on) a photo of you and your teen pals?
There is social pressure to eat laundry detergent.
Fact: If a teenager has done something stupid, it was probably to impress another teenager. There’s no other way to explain the “Tide pod challenge,” the very real social media trend that involved teens biting into laundry detergent packets and gnashing on them before spitting out the remains.
Teen stress is the worst stress.
While the life of a teenager might seem carefree compared to the average adult’s, they actually process the information around them differently.
Adriana Galván, a researcher at the University of California who has studied teenage anxiety, said in an interview that teenagers “experience stress as more stressful.”
Remember: Their problems might seem insignificant to you, but inside their heads it’s THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED!! And for more ways to relieve stress (even teenage stress), check out these 10 Secrets for Beating Stress in 10 Minutes (Or Less!).
Somehow, teen TV has gotten worse.
In retrospect, Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills: 90210 seem so quaint. Just look at a series like The Secret Life Of The American Teenager. It was on the air for five years, and it had a character who got married twice before graduating high school. Or how about all the cool kids who dabbled in homelessness on teen dramas, such as Jughead on Riverdale, Caleb on Pretty Little Liars, and Jess on Gilmore Girls?
Today’s angsty teen TV delivers more angst than the angstiest of ’90s-era TV shows could dream of mustering. Truth be told, it’s great that these shows are exploring important, real-life issues. But where’s the escape? It’s no wonder everyone just wants to watch comic-book movies! And for some totally mindless teen entertainment, here are the 40 Greatest Teen Movies Ever—Ranked.
All that texting is messing with their brains.
Researchers from Korea University in Seoul conducted MRS scans on teens diagnosed with Internet or smartphone addictions, and found that all that screen time was altering their brain chemistry. They had increased levels of a neurotransmitter in their anterior cingulate cortex that inhibited or even slowed down their brain signals. We’re not going to throw around loaded accusations like “texting is making teens dumb.” That would be mean. But their MRS scans are kinda calling them dumb.
They probably won’t be able to afford college.
According to some reports, the cost of college has tripled in the last 30 years, averaging at about $34,000 a year. And that’s if you go for something middle-of-the-road. Don’t even think about enrolling in an Ivy League school unless Daddy is rich or you’re planning on winning the lottery. This is the kind of thing that keeps a teenager awake at night, and it’s reason one New Jersey teenager sued her parents for tuition costs.
They consider pornography the world’s biggest natural resource.
According to some stats, nearly “30 percent of all data transferred across the Internet is porn.” Though scientists are still arguing about whether this is good or bad for teens on the whole—and so far the data remains unclear—several authorities argue that the vast sea of pornography that’s always one click away isn’t good.
According to the Child Mind Institute, pornography (at the very least) teaches kids an “unrealistic depiction of bodies, sex, and relationships,” and that it can “skew a young person’s views of the same.”
They’re pressured to vape.
Modern teens are smart enough not to smoke cigarettes because they know it can kill them. Instead, they’re addicted to JUUL, a highly potent e-cigarette that might be killing them, but nobody really knows yet.
Since 2015, sales for JUUL are up almost 900 percent, as e-cigarettes have out-paced traditional cigarette smoking in the United States. “I don’t recall any fad, legal or illegal, catching on in this way,” Meg Kenny, the assistant head of school at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont, told Vox.
The article then observed: “Students at her school are Juuling in bathrooms, in class, and on the bus. Because it’s against the school’s rules, they hide the devices in ceiling tiles and in their bras and underwear.”
They’re incapable of multitasking.
It’s not just that they don’t feel like doing their chores and finishing their homework and emptying the dishwasher. Their brains just don’t work like that.
In a 2005 study published in the medical journal Child Development, researchers found that teenagers have “cognitive limitations”—namely, the part of their brains responsible for multitasking has yet to be fully developed. They’ll eventually get up to speed, but for now, they can barely focus on just brushing their teeth without getting distracted.
They are literally sweaty all the time.
As their bodies start to change and they’re brimming with raging hormones going off like Molotov cocktails, teenagers have a tendency to sweat. Like a lot. In fact, science shows that excessive sweating, also known as “hyperhidrosis,” really kicks into high gear in adolescence.
Driving for them is more dangerous than ever.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six teenagers die each day, on average, from auto accidents in the U.S. alone. In fact, University of Minnesota researcher Nicole Morris once warned, “If you’re going to have an early, untimely death, the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17, and the reason for that is driving.”
It’s not that teenagers are incapable of operating a motor vehicle, it’s that they’re incapable of operating a motor vehicle when there’s another teenager sitting next to them. Studies have shown that the odds of a teenage driver getting into an accident jumps by 44 percent when they have a friend in the passenger seat.
Another study, this one at Temple University, found that teenagers playing a driving video game were 40 percent more likely to run a red light and 60 percent more likely to crash if they thought another teenager was “watching” them. And for more ways to ensure that you raise the best teen you can, check out these 6 Helpful Tips for Raising Teenagers.
They’re more depressed than ever.
A 2016 study found that teen depression is up a whopping 37% since 2005. What are they all so sad about? Well, pretty much everything you’ve just read about. For ways parenting has changed over the years, check out 20 Ways Parenting is Different Than It Was 20 Years Ago.
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