The options available to today’s teens can be both exciting and overwhelming. Instead of going into a rampage on how thankful they should be and what things were like “when I was your age,” parents, teachers, and other mentor adults do well to help educate teens about what’s really important in life and how to manage the increasingly complex world in which they live. Without learning to leverage the possibilities for their greatest advantage, the resources available at their fingertips may do more harm, than good.
Just Because It’s the Latest, Doesn’t Mean It’s the Greatest
While the older generation can be guilty of seeing their own ways of doing things as superior to “new-fangled things” available today, young people need to learn that what is new is not always what is best. This goes for everything from clothing to food options and even technology. As a response to the combination of our recent economic downturn, environmental concerns, and newly discovered health risks, many Americans are opting to forego new manufactured goods as well as highly processed foods. The trend-enslaved mindset of “I have to have it” can eclipse more than common sense; it can lead to a general discontentment and lack of satisfaction with the good things life offers.
Some Things in Life are Irreplaceable
The price of last year’s new technology or must-have Christmas gift is a lesson in how the valuation of an object can certainly fluctuate. While constant technology upgrades may make simpler tools like record players, slide rules, and wrist watches virtually obsolete, some things will always be worthless, while others are priceless treasures. Intangibles like well-worn friendships, integrity, and family ties are not worth sacrificing for temporal pleasures or achievements. If that great date to the prom will make an enemy of a childhood friend, it won’t be worth it. If having that new phone will mean stealing from your sister, then it’s just not an option. If the only way to make the honor roll is to cheat on a test, it’s not worth the trade-off.
Not All Opinions or Resources Are Created Equal
While teens may get a glimpse of this kind of thinking in language arts classes, they need to know that it applies to more than academic writing. Whether they hear something from a friend, see it on TV or even YouTube, or read it on the Internet, they need to learn to critically evaluate the sources of supposed “information” and compare and contrast their determinations with well-respected sources. They need to learn to understand how our own experiences and predispositions color our own judgments and those of others and to argue well-reasoned ideas clearly and respectfully.
As we create opportunities to discuss these and other time-tested values, we need to make sure teens understand that these aren’t standards that belong to only one generation or culture, but facets of a fulfilling life that transcends time, culture, and even technology.
Image credits: Top by Edyta Pawlowska/Fotolia; Middle by manaemedia/Fotolia; Bottom by Subbotina Anna/Fotolia