Danger, Danger! Can a Teen be Safe and Independent?

teen safety, teen independence, growing up, teen lifeMatt is a 17-year-old from New York City, NY. He loves to be social and spend time with his friends, as well as being an active leader in his community. However, school also plays an important role in his life and he is motivated to achieve his dreams.


Can he be safe and independent? That’s the main question that ran through my parents’ heads as I grew up in The Big Apple.


Growing up in a major city is very dangerous. Don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, it gives you amazing opportunities to learn and grow. I knew from an early age what areas were dangerous and what areas were safe. I knew what to say and what to do in certain situations. I give all the credit to my parents for the basic safety training they provided.


As I grew up through my kid years and now in the prime of my teen years, I am truly grateful for all that they taught me. Whenever I go out with my friends on a Friday night, I have a mom voice in my head reminding me to look both ways before crossing.


However, I see the value in independence as well…especially as a teen. I am a strong proponent of learning from ones mistakes. I’ll admit it, I’ve made quite a few mistakes in the past few years. Though at first I felt beyond guilty, I am now proud to say that I have grown up since.


There are some things that parents cannot teach you, some things that you need to learn on your own. For example, a parent can tell you a million times to not engage in underage drinking. But, let’s face the facts–everyday more teens begin to drink. It is up to the teen to decide what to do. S/he may end up drinking at a party and then after the fact realize what just happened. That is the definition of my independence. My parents let me make mistakes so I can become a better person on my own.


Coincidentally, my AP Psychology class just recently spoke about parenting styles and how they affect childhood development. Those parents who are very strict and are “too safe” are considered authoritarian parents. Those who are very “easy-going” are considered permissive parents. Those who are “neglectful” are considered neglectful parents. However, those parents who have enforced rules yet still open to discussions about them and are reasonable are considered authoritative parents. Parents, aim to be authoritative. In return, your children will have a good sense of safety and independence.


The thing about the safety vs. independent debate is that it becomes a struggle during Erikson’s fifth stage of development. Erik Erikson was a psychologist who developed an eight stage social development of people. Each stage has an age group and a problem. The fifth stage happens during the teen years. The problem is identity. Many teens do “stupid” things during this time period in attempting to find him/herself. Because of this, safety is thrown out and independence takes control. In my opinion, though parents want to be parents, they need to let go a little and let their children discover who they are.


Many teens and parents believe that there can’t be a happy medium between safety and independence. Parents tend to lean towards safety, while teens lean towards independence. I think I have made a balance for myself. Honestly, I made this balance without my parents, but with friends. Before we do something that our parents would call “dangerous,” we make a pro/con list for the activity. If the cons outweigh the pros, we don’t do it. Otherwise, we are independent for the whole time. We attempt to live our teen lives without any regrets. Therefore, we make a balance between safety and independence to stay satisfied.

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