Victor Luckerson: The American Teenager in 2015 - On the fringe of something new.
In this article, TIME looks at the American teenager in 2015 and compares its findings with a similar study done in 1965.
(A) It’s harder to be a teen now than it was in 1965 - at least according to teenagers. That’s not in spite of the Internet and the iPhone. It’s because of all the technology that surrounds us.
“We have more responsibilities because of all the technology that we have,” says Sharon Bayantemur, a 17-year-old student. “People expect more from you because they know you have a cell phone and they can contact
you and you have to pick up. Back then you didn’t really have that obligation.”
(B) Teens say finding romance during high school is still important, but they’re not expecting to find lifelong love. The median age for marriage jumped from 22 to 28 between 1965 and 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “Back in the day you were very worried about finding a husband so they could take care of you,” says Emma Baker, an 18-year-old. “Nowadays women can make a living on their own
and be very independent. The pressure is a whole lot less.”
(C) Same-sex relationships are greeted with indifference in some circles, too. Even the oldest teens were in elementary school when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Though gay teenagers can still face discrimination, David Sides, a 17-year-old, says the antagonism is lessening. “Like, nobody cares. That’s your thing. I’m not gonna tell you you can’t do it, but I’m not going
to give you a high five for it.”
(D) At the same time, sexual activity among teens has been on a steady decline in recent decades. The number of partners per sexually active student is down too. Young folks have some theories for explaining the drop. “We have so many things nowadays to keep us busy, whereas back then they had nothing to do,” 16-year-old Caitlyn Ascencio says laughing. (These facts, however, haven’t done much to
assuage the long-held notion in high school that everyone else is having sex.)
(E) Today’s youngest teens barely remember a time before the U.S. had a black president, but ongoing racial tensions are still evident to many of them. Though the segregation described in 1965 is considered to be a thing of the past, some teens say their perception of racial progress changed following the lack of indictments for police officers involved in the killings of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, in
2014. There’s a sense among many, especially at schools largely populated by minorities, that racial issues will persist in the future. “There’s always going to be a race problem all around the world,” says Ibrahim Diallo, the 18-year-old captain of East Side’s basketball team. “You’re just going to have to find a way to deal with it.”
(F) But teens are also searching for nuance in what’s become a heated social debate. “My uncle is a
captain in the police force and I respect him as a person,” says Luz Robles, a 17-year-old at East Side who serves as student council president. “I don’t think it’s police in general. I think it’s just certain people who are spoiling it for all of them.”
(G) Teens are still experimenting with new substances, but their preferences have changed. Alcohol use by teens has declined since the 1970s. Marijuana use among that group plummeted in the ’80s, when
Nancy Reagan was teaching students to “Just Say No” to drugs, but today usage is right about where it was in 1975. Forty percent of 12th graders say they’ve smoked weed in the past year. With marijuana legalized in a growing number of states, the drug is no longer viewed as particularly dangerous or rebellious. “You would speak about it in a hushed tone maybe, like, ten years ago,” says John Hancock, a 16-year-old at East Side. “Now you could be screaming across the room to a friend, ‘Hey! Want to go
(H) Today’s teens are coming of age in the shadow of the largest financial calamity since the Great Depression. College tuition, room and board has increased more than tenfold since 1965 and the income gap between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and everyone else has been growing for three decades. For many teens, these realities mean choosing a college is more about pragmatism than pursuing a dream.
There’s also an anxiety about the world that will be waiting after college. “It’s going to be a lot more difficult,” says Jacob Lamb, a 17-year-old senior at Briarwood. “I feel like a college degree is worth a lot less than it was. There’s a lot more people competing for the same jobs.”
(I) But the changes of recent decades have also created new opportunities. Beth Rodriguez-Cortes, a 13-year-old from Denver, believes she’ll have an easier time reaching college than her parents. “They were
undocumented when they came here, so they didn’t really get the chance to go to college,” she says. “I think I’ll have it a lot easier.”
(J) None of these kids know what will come ahead - but that’s part of being a teenager. They’ll assume jobs that don’t yet exist. They’ll carry gadgets we haven’t even dreamed up and deal with social problems that haven’t yet broken into the mainstream. They’re going to figure out the future because they have no
Aus: Victor Luckerson: The American Teenager in 2015 - On the fringe of something new., time.com, November 12th, 2016