Sue Scheff: What to Teens Want?

Tangerine Times is a great website of articles and insights on parenting! It is definitely one of my favorites. What do teens want???? Can we as parents ever win? Since my kids are young adults now I can say, yes, eventually it does get easier. Patience.....

For parents of teens, it’s an everyday experience to see the rapidly evolving use of technology by teenagers. The shifting can happen whether there is a new, hot product out our not. Many times it is simply teens finding a new application or use for an existing product or service. Marketing firms are scrambling to pin-down this potentially huge market but it’s like hitting a moving target. Well… now you know how it feels to PARENT a teenager!!

Tina Wells, chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, says: “Technology is starting to define what’s cool in a way that fashion used to define what’s cool.” For teens, “as long as it’s technology, it’s what’s hot”. Translation: the geek is not necessarily the un-cool kid anymore. Everyone is geeked out. That’s not half bad if you ask me.

Of the teens Wells polled online, 93 per cent say they prefer the internet to television. This is another big shift and for Baby Boomers such as myself, who came of age with the television as a central character, it’s hard to understand. But there it is. And, perhaps this exlains the vapid programming we see on the network stations? Most teens think, “You can watch TV shows on the internet, so what’s the point?” Another good point. I’ve started doing it too.

Many teens have forwarded all their email to their mobile phone and many access their Facebook and of course, texting. Their cell phone is their lifeline. I can remember a time when the “cell” phone was a brick. No one wanted to carry one around. Size matters. Functionality matters. But, it’s the portability of the phones and the computers (i.e. laptops) that truly gives us parents headaches. It is a difficult task to monitor - especially if you don’t want to be “in their face” about monitoring. Most parents just want to provide some temporary barriers around their teen’s online activity NOT a cement wall that protects them like precious snowflakes.

Wells says another force in youth culture is the idea that anyone can easily become famous thanks to video-sharing sites like YouTube, blogs and social networking. Boy is THAT an understatement. Coupled with the rise of Reality shows, this is a cultural shift that effects teenagers more than any one group in America. The lure of “instant stardom” is truly a phenomenon of this age. Never before could a teenager in the middle of an Iowa farm find fame and exposure to millions of people.
Powerful yes and potentially dangerous. It also distorts the old-fashion concept of working hard to achieve success. Parents have to fight this everyday but even they fall victim to the shiny lights. Seen from this side of the fence, technology touches all aspects of parenting teenagers. What teens STILL want by using this technology is to feel special and to connect with other people. It’s up to us to help them keep it in perspective. And, that’s not always easy when we’re making up the rules as we go.

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