By Mathieu Morin, youth worker at the Valcartier Family Centre
They don’t want to work, spend their time on the screens, are too precocious and have everything, and they are spoiled!
Ah, today’s youth!
“Our teens love luxury, have bad manners, mock authority and have no respect for adults. In our time, children are tyrants. “… This quote from Socrates (470 – 399 BC) seems to show that adults have always considered teens to be lazier and less respectful than their elders. Many extracts of the genre, drawn from different eras, abound in the same direction. Is the 2020 version teenager so different from that of previous generations? If there is no definitive answer to this question (because yes, of course, society, and therefore the humans that make it up, have evolved), young people’s behaviours seem to be more or less similar over the years.
Teens of their time
Let’s settle the matter immediately: no, today’s youth are no more lazier, precocious or disrespectful than their predecessors. They simply adapt to the norms and values of their generation. Very different from your time, their vision of the world may have something to prematurely turn your hair grey. The “here and now” has replaced the ‘’long-term and stability’’, pleasure takes precedence over work and invulnerability has given way to assertiveness and listening to your own needs. The teenager of 2020 is as sensitive as that of 1960’s and experiences the same emotions for a given situation. The difference is that today, they know how to recognize and to label it! Which (from a counsellor’s point of view, anyway) is a very good thing by the way.
The social life of teens has certainly evolved over the last few decades, among other things through social media. Teens become more vulnerable due to how social media can be easily accessed, such as meeting strangers, the privacy of their personal information and the transmission of what they share online. This can also have other impacts, such as making them more sedentary or increasing peer pressure. A word about bullying: it used to happen at school and on the way home. Nowadays, teens can be bullied even to their bedroom through their phone. All these factors mean that teens need to be more aware and educated about the use of the Web and require from the parents and counsellors to be kept up to date, which is not easy.
Informed and responsible
The evolution of technological is not all bad: in fact, teens are becoming more and more informed. Your child may not change their own tires, but don’t try to pull a fast one pass on them regarding climate change issues! More (and better) informed also means more aware. Concerning risk-taking, for example, the figures are reassuring because, in fact, our teens are rather responsible: a large majority of them are non-smokers 1, consume little or no alcohol and/or drugs (+/- 90%)2 and their sexual precocity is about the same as it was in the 80’s3. Why do we think otherwise? Probably because social perceptions have changed. Teens are no longer marginalized for having intimate relationships outside of marriage or for drinking at parties. These behaviours are less hidden because they are less reprehensible, so we see them more. Some are even encouraged and widely publicized (on television, in advertisements, on social media, etc.).
Choosing a job?!
The current economic situation and full employment (at least before the COVID-19 crisis) is favourable for teens and they know how to take advantage of it. Gone are the days when you proudly walked into the grocery store, restaurant or store with your carefully prepared resume, only to see it dropped on a pile of dozens of others. This was usually accompanied by a “thank you, if we have something we’ll call you! “which we knew in advance was generic and there would be no follow up. Nowadays, the applicant barely steps their foot in a store where they are hired without having to provide references. So how can you blame them for changing jobs or school programs for something more to their liking? If we had that choice, we probably would have done the same thing! Experiencing many different things is not a bad thing, since it helps develop self-awareness. However, beware that changing jobs and resigning too often must be done with respect and professionalism, otherwise your “name” will be affected. Quality references may be required for professional employment or certain restricted study programs. And let us not forget the monetary aspect: longer studies can empty your pockets!
In closing: the opposite is also true!
There is a wide range of articles on adolescence, from behaviour to development, from puberty to coaching and parenting strategies, most of them without the teenager having any say in the matter. Yet, their point of view on the world around them is relevant and enriching if one takes an interest in it.
Very often, adults are themselves maintaining the supposed gap between them and the new generation. “In your day,” you had to walk 12 km and swim across a lake to go to school, you were already working full time at age 7, and most importantly, you couldn’t talk back to your parents without getting a life sentence in prison!
More seriously: yes, there are several differences between generations, and it will be the same for the following ones. Yes, our kids have a little more of this, a little less of that. The important thing is to use it to get closer and grow mutually. Do not look too much at your teenager: he may teach you more than you think! Above all, remember that whatever the era, the needs of teens are the same: to be encouraged, valued for their strengths and to feel that we believe in them; they just might know it a little more today.
Any concerns or questions? Do not hesitate to contact the Valcartier Family Center youth team!
 Institut De la statistique du Québec, « SANTÉ PHYSIQUE ET HABITUDES DE VIE CHEZ LES JEUNES DU SECONDAIRE AU QUÉBEC EN 2016-2017 », https://stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/infographies/eqsjs2018-sante-jeunes-dec1805.pdf (page consulted on June 1, 2020)
 Martin BLAIS, Sarah RAYMOND, Hélène MANSEAU, et Johanne OTIS, La sexualité des jeunes Québécois et Canadiens. Regard critique sur le concept d’hypersexualisation, [En ligne], 2009, https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/globe/2009-v12-n2-globe1498040/1000705ar.pdf (page consulted on June 1, 2020)