When I was a teenager, I remember, one prevailing reaction I had to the media coverage of my generation — it was jaded and wrong. Whether television, newspaper or radio, I always felt that adults were painting pictures of my peer group not in an effort to understand our teenage angst but rather to demonize its manifestations. Teens were something to be feared — as was the march of time.
I suspect that this decades-old feeling was not unique to my generation, and, if anything, today’s Internet-accelerated news cycles may have exacerbated the problem. To test my theory, I went to Google News and searched for “teens” (with “Safe Search” enabled — a sign of the times itself). The 24 hours of news I reviewed fit rather neatly into six categories:
“Study: Smoking Can Alter Teens’ Brains”
“Overuse of Energy Drinks a Danger to Teens”
“Teen Pregnancy High in South-Central Idaho”
“Most Teens Waiting to Have Sex”
“New Campaign Seeks to Get Teen Drivers Off Their Cellphones”
“Teen Dies Following Apparent Game of ‘Chicken’”
“Teens Charged with Stealing Beer and Cookie Jar”
“2 Teens Arrested in W.Va. Home Invasion”
“Teen Lucky to Be Alive After Swallowing Magnetic Tongue Rings”
“Colo. Teen Dies of Cardiac Arrest During Rugby Match”
“Local Teen Earns Boys & Girls Club Top Honor”
“Teens Get a Lift from Competing in Arnold Sports Festival”
While this exercise was far from scientific, it yielded an all-too-familiar sense that the news continues to mine the teenage experience more for the worst stories than the best. “If it bleeds, it leads” is alive and well as are stories that create a sense of fear around the teenage experience. For heaven’s sakes, just look at those headlines above one more time! If the cars, cell phones, and energy drinks don’t get you, there’s always magnetic tongue rings to finish the job!
So what can we glean from the news about teens that isn’t sensational? Lots: