I have two girls. At 5 and 7 years old, my two girls are easy to deal with and a pleasure to be around. I’m lead to believe this won’t always be the case. At 5 & 7 years old, our household is not far away from having adolescents in our midst, two of them and I’d be lying if I told you this doesn’t scare the heck out of me.
Teenagers are touted as being to parents, what kryptonite is to Superman. I’d like to believe it’s all just a beat up, but that comforting thought is disappearing, and yet, this week I read something that gave me a little hope. It came in the form of Dolly magazine’s Annual Teenager Survey as it was commented on by parenting expert Michael Grose. Michael released the following findings in his newsletter:
1. Family is very important to teenagers, but the thing they can’t live without is their phone. The number of teens with smartphones has doubled in two years. 80 per cent of teenagers now have a smartphone.
2. Bullying is still one of the biggest concerns for young people. Online bullying of teenage girls has increased massively in two years. In 2011, 9% said they had been bullied. In 2013 it is 36%.
3. Smoking is on the outer. Only 12% smoke and eight in 10 would like their parents to stop smoking.
4. However, drinking alcohol is still popular. Forty-one per cent say they have been drunk, and the average age that this group first tasted alcohol was 14. Ninety-nine per cent say it’s acceptable to drink alcohol occasionally.
5. Hyper-networking … drives teen life and most of it is online. One in two teenagers feel constant pressure to keep up-to-date with social media. If they don’t keep up they may miss out on invitations to parties, knowing what’s going on, gossip and the latest trends.
6. Teens are a lot smarter about using Facebook than two years ago. They have fewer Facebook friends, and now are more likely to use Facebook to stay in contact with ‘real world’ friends rather than purely collecting ‘virtual’ friends and ‘likes’.
7. Girls are selective in their use of social media. They are using Facebook* to connect with friends, Tumblr* as a creative outlet and Instagram* as an artistic form of self-expression. *Don’t know what these are? You should. Google them to find out.
8. Teens today are uncertain about the future. Their biggest worry is getting a good job, followed by the need to make money and achieve financial security. This is perhaps due to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the resultant conservative approach to finances shown at home.
9. This leads girls in particular to invest in their future. Forty-six per cent of girls (compared to 26% of boys) are saving for the future with 27% of girls (and only 5% of boys) saving money for university.
10. Girls drive themselves harder than boys. Eighty per cent of girls, compared to 72% of boys, believe they need a tertiary education to succeed. This hasn’t changed in two years.
While my girls are a little way off teenagehood yet and I expect some of these things will change, it would surprise me if most of them don’t still hold true in less than a decade’s time. Some of these findings make me feel that the hype about the pain of living with a teenager is true. The references to drinking, parties and social media are not surprising, unfortunately.
What I liked about these findings were that smoking is now on the outer, a trend reversal from my days in the schoolyard and I hope it stays that way. Teens are worried about the future, which in my mind is great because it could translate into a desire to do well. Girls drive themselves harder than boys which, unless the gender imbalances in the corporate world magically address themselves before my girls hit the workforce, could be particularly beneficial.
The final point that was encouraging was that family is important to teenagers. OK so it’s a close second to a smartphone, but after all the horror stories about what I should expect from my teenage girls, this finding fills me with hope. While outwardly, they’ll probably still view me a doosh-bag or whatever the term for a “dorky dad” is at the time, at least I’ll know it’s probably for show and they’ll actually still want me and their mother around. And in the uncertainty that adolescence is, for both parties I might add, this is a little comforting. Maybe it won’t be that bad after all. Maybe.
PS: You can read the rest of Michael Grose’s newsletter here.