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Teen? What does it mean?
Technology defines the millennium teenager — a blessing in many ways and sometimes a curse. It connects as well as isolates, makes the friendless more apparent and requires teens to be constantly on the ball
When I was asked to write this article I got 11 students from class 12 here at Vasant Valley School to ask the same question to eight fellow teenagers from across the school: "What defines a millennium teenager?"
As expected, the answers varied across class levels and students. It is also not very surprising that the more reflected and thought-through answers came from the older students, especially those in class 11 and 12 who are getting ready to leave the school and become young adults. They are now applying for universities both in India and abroad and have probably spent more time thinking about themselves in a larger world context.
The students seemed very divided and torn in their views of the millennium teenager, some are very optimistic while others are pessimistic about their own generation. Some mentioned the western influences and the loss of cultural belonging as a trademark of this generation;others mentioned drugs, alcohol and promiscuity as well as a generation of spoiled, materialistic teenagers. On the opposite side some saw themselves as open minded and aware of all world events. They respect family and others around them. They are hard working at school. Many understood being a millennium teenager as being free and independent. Being able to make your own decisions and being confident in yourself. They are aware of their rights and will demand what they know they are entitled to. They have big dreams and ambitions, wishing to aim high and want to bring change to the world. However there were four characteristics that were common in almost all answers:
First of all, almost all said that teenagers have become multitaskers with a high degree of pressure to balance school life, family life and friends. Many mention being torn between the pressure to be part of the "cool" group that needs to be balanced out with the pressure to do well in school.
The second characteristic is the great role technology plays in their lives, the presence of computers and other devices as well as social networking through twitter and facebook. To many of the students, technology seems to be the defining element of the millennium teenager.
The third characteristic was their sense of modernity and being at the forefront, they are one step ahead of the previous generation, knowing more and understanding more of what is going on. They believe they are more progressive than the previous generation. The fourth and final characteristic that almost all mentioned was the role of friends and that your friends have become a much more important part of a teenagers life, maybe even more important than family. The use and connectivity of technology is what really sets the new teenage generation of the millennium apart from the previous generations. Technology is making the world more connected, making those that are friendless more apparent, requiring teenagers to constantly be on the ball, therefore feeling pressured from all sides.
There does not seem to be a lot of down time for today's teenagers. The expectations are high for friendship, looks, and social success as well as for being kind, independent and financially successful. The outside pressures have always existed for teenagers, every adult remembers their teenage years as an awkward and difficult phase but it seems that the awkwardness and difficulties today's teenagers face are being reinforced by technology. It is no longer possible to hide because technology has made the teenagers lives more transparent. Though technology connects the teenagers more to the outside world they are also more isolated since most of the social interactions happen over social networking, where they all sit alone with their personal devices. This seems to have resulted in a larger focus on quantity rather than quality of human interactions where quantity is the mark of popularity. This is also reflected in the larger focus on materialism, where the newest shiniest gadget gives you status but you constantly have to keep yourself updated to be popular.
Technology brings many positive aspects to teenage life, such as being able to access information easier, being able to make more informed and independent decisions at an early age, it can improve the learning process and help keep in touch with your friends. However the world is moving at a much quicker pace than what it used to;this sets a high degree of expectations from teenagers. It is impossible for them to not constantly move with the technological improvements and gives them little time to reflect and just be. This process is unavoidable but it is our role as adults to help guide them in this process and teach them how to take advantage of technology and not get lost in it.
In conclusion it can be said that all the students made a real attempt to answer this very difficult question to the best of their ability. It is always very difficult to assess oneself and especially the generation one represents. The study, albeit small, was dominated by positive answers of hopes and dreams. It seems that the millennium teenager in India in 2012 is divided and torn between many aspects of life but all in all is a dreamer like all teenagers should be, although maybe more a realistic dreamer than their previous generation, as a consequence of all the information that he or she is being subjected to through technology.
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