Mixed Messages: Teenage Expectations Caught Between Signals

Morgan is a 16-year-old from Goddard, KS. She enjoys writing, volunteering, acting as a positive voice for youth, and being politically aware. She loves History and aspires to be a lawyer in her future.


All too often, teens encounter a wrong message of who they are supposed to be. There is this constant tug of what is deemed ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ pulling down on the teenagers of today. Role models, peers, the media, celebrities, church, politicians, and parents all contribute to the misconception of how teens are expected to act or behave. Thus, leaving this big rhetorical question left to make me wonder, “What is really expected of me?”

The media tends to portray teenagers as rebels who have nothing better to do than cause a ruckus. They only show the negative actions of teens, such as: sex, abortion, drugs, and alcohol. If there is a scandal around a teen, it’s a media feeding frenzy. There is only one problem; the media is the one who strongly aids the misguidance of teens.

Magazines subtly tell teenagers that they will not get anywhere in life without the best clothing, jewelry, or anything that is designer. Magazines are also filled with the stereotypical models, which create a yearning to fulfill a certain body image that is associated with “beauty.”

Music artists, more times than not, include references or drugs, alcohol, and having sex indiscriminately, all while offending females with derogatory terms which, in turn, flat out degrades women.

In truth, teens don’t need to be this popular or be filled with ideas like these. Teenage girls are always flaunting and showing themselves off while the guys are trying to be tough body builders so they can impress the ladies. Society says that if teens don’t have the money or the looks, they will get nowhere in life. It is not right! There is a select group of teenagers, however, who refuse to give in to this nonsense. I’m proud to be one of those teens.

I’m sure every parent’s worst nightmare is having their teen getting caught up in society’s drama and misconception. Parents want their teen to be the best they can be: respectful, kind, caring, and always looking out for the interests of others. In truth, if teens were to act how society expects them to, they wouldn’t be any of those things. Sure teens want their parents to be happy and proud of them, but with all the mixed messages, what is actually expected is hard to determine. Society’s sculpted image and the pressure from all fronts leave teens caught in a daze of confusion and it’s hard to see the light.

This uncertainty can also be found within the church and youth outreach programs. The Bible states that teens shouldn’t have sex, drink, or do drugs…the very things that society says they should do to be ‘hip.’ The church says God will always forgive, but that doesn’t allow teens the skills to cope with the uncertainty of how to act and react to these pressures of society. Church leaders say all you have to do is go to God, parents say come to them, and society wants us to focus on the cool kid sitting in prison with no life ahead of him.

Teens will be teens just as kids will be kids, and it is a personal choice that as human beings we choose how we act or what we do. After all, teens are young adults are the future of the world. Society, parents, churches, and peers all have an influence, good and bad alike. The question of “what am I expected to do?” will remain ingrained in every teenage mind. Many teens can handle this rough stage in life in a mature and impressive manner, while others will handle it like complete idiots.

My only wish is that society’s expectations of teens be a little better; it is pathetic looking at how degrading and awful the perceptions of teens are. For all you adults out there just know there are some teens that choose not to go along with the pressures of society and are making their own path. I intend on making new expectations, and raising the bar. Just as stated on the morning announcements all across the United States, “Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.”

Image: Chris Blakeley from Flickr

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