Challenges Facing the Twenty-First Century Teen

modern life, stress, economy, recession,Emily is a 13-year-old from Eastvale, CA. She loves to write, cook, and volunteer at her local animal shelter.


Most of the times when teens complain to their parents saying “You just don’t get it!” parents think they are being dramatic. Truth is a lot of the time we are right because the world today is entirely different from when they were growing up. Yeah, the essentials have not changed, peer pressure, and bullying but they have been taken to a whole new level. It seems like every time you turn on the news another controversy has arisen that has the potential to affect our lives, especially regarding the economy.

According to the U.S. department of Labor 48 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed, which is absolutely frightening. This hurdle however, is the least acknowledged by teens because until we start looking for a job ourselves it does not affect us, which has both positive and negative consequences. On the bright side ignorance really is bliss – until reality catches up, with a bombshell or two. This is something parents need to be prepared to handle.

While most teens are busy ignoring the economy we are consumed with our social lives because thanks to cyber-bullying it takes a lot of time to prevent ugly rumors from spreading. People are more courageous when they do not have to directly face a person and words hurt whether they are spoken aloud or written out. The best way for parents to help deal with the stress of bullying is to simply listen. Don’t automatically reach for the phone to contact the school or other ways to resolve the situation because that completely disregards their opinion.  Sometimes all teens want is to rant for a while and by not overeating it shows you can be trusted.

As you already know, teenage years are a journey of life in which you discover yourself. Today, it is harder to do than ever because there are so many opinions all claiming to be the truth. Media influences what we wear, listen to, and should look like. Peer pressure challenges anyone who comes out and decides to be different, calling them wrong for expressing themselves. Parents are responsible for combating this by encouraging their kids to be original and to accepting “unusual” behavior as long as it is not harmful. For example, weird hair is not going to hurt anyone and it can always be changed; make up can be removed, and writing creepy poetry doesn’t mean they are depressed.

The best thing parents can do for their teens is to be there. Let them rant away and only offer advice when asked. Society has changed so much and so I hate to say it but parental advice is not always valid since parents may do not always what their kids are going through.  Twenty-first challenges are like no other and this generation is the first that has to enter adulthood sentenced to these struggles. Many teens will be the first in their families to fight these battles and so they need the support now more the than ever.

Photo: flikr image from laughlin




Unemployment: How it Affects Teens

unemployment, job market, job search, financial stress

Emily is a 13-year-old from Corona Ca. She enjoys reading, writing, and swimming, and her favorite subject is history because it inspires her to learn about other cultures.


13.9 million people in the U.S. are currently unemployed, many of which have families. Those unfortunate parents are plagued with stress and fear because they have more than just themselves to worry about. While it is commonly accepted that financial matters should be left for the adults in the family to handle, stress is placed upon teens in abundance. After all, our futures are possibly being limited in the midst of us planning our dreams.

My Dad hasn’t been able to keep a job in over two years and now he is approaching a time where it is now or never. When he was first laid off nobody was overly concerned – he’s a sheet metal worker so it’s common for him to lose his job when it is done. Typically a new job opportunity would come within a week or two but, this time nothing did. A month passed and more quickly followed after that and the longer time went on the closer my parents came to becoming completely engulfed with worry. Finally he found a job, only to be let go a few short weeks later. This happened five more times over the next year and each time I was overwhelmed with euphoria that was replaced with sorrow.

Emotionally, the constant ups, downs, and months of monotony are terribly confusing for teens. When so many promises are made and none kept it begins to create trust issues because there is trepidation that depending on people leads to betrayal. Also if the unemployed parent is seeking work elsewhere resentment for where you live is a concern because it shows teens that you are stuck someplace with minimal opportunities. That is actually what I struggle with the most having my Dad unemployed. Staying with that thought many people wait on the sides of roads hoping to get picked up for day labor because there isn’t enough official work in certain areas. He does do this, which is a very frightening concept since you don’t know if the guy who picks him up is commendable or a criminal.

I believe the way parents react to the loss and stress of unemployment has a considerable impact on the way their children, teens in particular, view your predicament. Though I am perfectly aware my parents’ perspective could be healthier they put a tremendous amount of effort into helping my brothers and I cope with instability that comes along with this situation. By trying to implement optimism as a family philosophy so to speak it made it easier for us to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. Some advice for teens in specific are never to shoot down there questions. Instead, answer them in a way that isn’t condescending. When they have opinions on ways to conserve money welcome them and show encouragement by being conversational. This helps to build a more open relationship because by honestly answering their questions it eliminates some of the apprehension towards your family’s’ state of affairs.

Unemployment for any length of time puts an overwhelmingly heavy weight upon the shoulders of those it affects. It threatens to ruin lives and destroy futures. However, if dealt with correctly financial hardship can result in positive changes in your perspective that last a lifetime. Despite all of my family’s struggles I’m content with my life thanks to lessons I have and continue to learn. Some of the key philosophies I have adopted are: money isn’t everything as long as you are not alone and that through trials in life wisdom is gained. Still, every night I dream of a time when my Dad will keep and sheet metal job and hope I comes before that pathway in his life is closed. The main thing is, do not allow your teens to feel like they are alone; simply show them that you will be there for them always.                                                                                    

Image: Wisconsin Historical Images from Flikr

What Teens Are Doing This Summer [Teen Article]

Stephanie is a sophomore in high school residing in suburban New Jersey. She loves free-writing and dreams of traveling the world.

What Teens Are Doing This SummerWe’re well into the Summer of 2009:

The days are hot,
The nights are long,
And the ocean waves are cool and strong.
(Sorry. I was never good at poetry. But that’s besides the point.)

The point is, with a great year like this, teenagers are not about to let an economic recession ruin their summer fun.

Ever since the recession, families have had to cut down on spending, especially when it came down to vacations or planning summer getaways. Driving becomes a pain when gas prices are sky-high, so road trips have become tough to finance, too.  Many friends and family members of mine have decided to skip the fancy vacations and instead keep their summer plans local and affordable. How is this possible, you ask?

Go to the beach with a group of friends. Check out your neighborhood pool (or relax in your own if you’re lucky enough to own one!).  Visit an amusement or water park for a day. Invite some kids over to have dessert at the local diner, then crash at your place. Want to get a little adventurous? You can always go on a hike, or plan to go parasailing with a buddy. Throw a few well-planned house parties if your parents allow it. It’s so easy to find things to do with friends without going over your budget.

Still finding yourself short of extra cash? No worries. Nothing’s better than saving up with money earned from a summer job. Plenty of my friends have found daytime jobs at restaurants, farms, bakeries, supermarkets, clothing stores, and offices. I know of teens that have even taken to starting their own businesses! Some find it exciting to shadow their own parents at work and gain insight into the business world as well as work experience. Volunteering is also an option that teens are considering as a summer activity. I myself have gotten involved with my town’s local animal shelter, spending time with abandoned animals and helping to raise money for needed supplies. One of my close friends is currently volunteering at a soup kitchen – she absolutely loves it! Volunteering is that special kind of work that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as peace of mind knowing that through hard effort you’ve managed to better your community. Not to mention, it looks great on your resume! (Plus, come September you’ll have something to brag about to your new teacher. Cough cough.)

Plenty of teenagers are willing to work and stay close to home during their summer break, but others are still itching to hop on a plane or drive down somewhere exotic for the vacation of their lives. I’ve noticed that teenagers are now more frequently going on vacations together and splitting the costs. Renting vacation homes and booking cruises are popular, especially since you can find some cheap deals with both options.  Even though you only have to pay half the price, you’re learning to spend your money wisely which is totally boosting your financial responsibility. Isn’t it more exciting to learn about managing your finances during vacation-time rather than in a boring accounting class at school, anyway?

Before I wrap up, I think it’s important to mention how much of a role technology is playing this summer, too. The internet is HUGE this year. So many websites became popular with teenagers – obviously the more widely-known social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter – but some surprising winners were found in websites like and I can assure you that if teens aren’t hanging out with friends or lying out under some umbrella on the beach, you can bet they’re typing away to their friends on AIM or updating their MySpace status. Looks like being tech-savvy can come in hand!
Okay, so Summer 2009 has been influenced by our nation’s economic state – but not completely revolutionized. Teens are still into having a good time and aren’t about to give that desire up just because money may be a little tight. To all my fellow peers who are looking to make the best of what’s left of our break: enjoy the heat, stay smart with your cash and take the opportunity of making this your best summer yet. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

The New Version of the ‘Good ‘Ole Days’ [Teen Article]

Emily is a 15-year-old from Miami, Fl. She enjoys the beach, Disney World, baking cupcakes, and hanging with friends.

the new version of the good ol days
Three months ago my parents gathered the family around the table and told us that my dad’s salary was getting cut 40% because of the economic downturn. I didn’t know what to think. It was too much for my naive 15 year-old-brain to process. I saw the days of movie outings with friends, impromptu shopping sprees, and decadent restaurant nights out diminishing before my eyes. The lifestyle that I so looked forward to, in my teen years seemed to turn to dust. My parents pressed the fast forward button before I had the chance to speak, and now I was being immersed in “adult situations.” Dinner conversations became consumed with rising insurance rates, ways to cut our phone bills, coupon cutting, and switching to basic cable instead of having 500 channels. Not that I have ever personally been spoiled, but I’ve constantly been surrounded by people who are. Living in Miami, most teens here have a certain lifestyle. Most of my friend’s parents are doctors, lawyers, or other high paying professionals. When I go to the mall with them, their parents will give them $400 to spend, while I’ll bring the $30 I got from babysitting on Saturday. My circle of friends goes on European cruises for spring break, while I consider myself lucky if my family manages to scrape some money together to go to Disney World.

The recession has strained my family in ways that bring my mom to tears sometimes. When you’re a parent, all you want to do for your kids is give them the best of everything, but when you can’t do that without risking going bankrupt, you feel like a failure. Throughout my life, I’ve gotten used to hearing “NO” for things, like asking to go to sleep away camps, invites on vacations with friends, and overly priced jeans. But recently, the “No’s” have become more constant for even the most trivial of items. Last week I told my mom to pick up some shampoo at the grocery store for me because I was out, but she told me that she couldn’t because there was $2.97 at the moment and she couldn’t risk bouncing a check. That day, I thought about getting a part-time job for the first time in my life. And not the typical babysitting job where you go across the street to take care of little Johnny for an hour, but one that I’d clock in and out of. I’ve never hesitated at the thought of getting a job, it always seemed like a sort of rite of passage, but I always assumed it would be when I was 17, to buy my first car or score some front row seats. I never would have imagined getting a job to help out with my parents.

Shortly after, I logged onto  and . I must have sent out over 20 applications. I only got one reply, though, but once they found out my young age, it was as if I could literally see their eyes roll over the phone. But, apparently I’m not along in the teen job hunt. According to statistics discovered by series “CBS Reports: Children of the Recession,” employment for teens age 16-19 has dropped from 45% in 2000 to just 30% as of 2009. Chris Wragge, co-anchor of Early Show Saturday Edition, points out that “many teens need the jobs to help their families to stay afloat, not just for spending money.” But the recession is putting teens up against older, more experienced workers vouching for the same positions. One of the teens who participated in the series, Bianca Rivera, 16, has been looking for a job at a day care center for six months. She says “ They ask you your age, and when you say 16 they say, ‘OK, okay we’ll give you a call after you sign the application,’ and they never call.”

But, the recession struggles aren’t just affecting the present, it’s also affecting the future. Teens are having more issues affording college. Derek Garcia, 17, who also participated in the special, says “My friends got into their first choice colleges, but they can’t go. A lot of colleges are very expensive- $40,000 to $50,000- and they just didn’t get enough financial aid.” And with rising health insurance prices, and companies covering less, many teens are finding themselves uninsured, putting them at a high risk for possible life-threatening diseases. Even these basic needs are being denied to our youth, and it’s scary to think of the dismal outcome which is becoming more prominent with each passing day.

Usually adults look back on their childhood as a sort of whimsical. One with no cares, responsibilities, or concerns. My parents, at least, were baby boomers, and were born into a world filled with prosperity. Sometimes, during my conversations with them, they’ll reflect about how they could get a cherry coke for 5 cents, or how they’d get a Mars bar for 15 cents. It all seems so alien to me, living in a time where getting a popcorn and soda at the movie theater costs more than the movie itself. It makes me long for my parent’s fairytale stories of innocence and happiness to become a reality again, but for now there are no fairytales, just wishes for one to come.

Top 5 Companies for Teen Jobs:

1.) JcPenny’s


3.) Walmart

4.) Burger King

5.) Kohl’s

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Familynomics: Laissez-Faire, Marxist and Keynesian Parenting

Parenting is Flat CoverI have to put those Econ classes in college to good use, right? For my next book, Parenting Is Flat: How Globalization Has Changed Familynomics, I talk about how globalization has affected family structure and parenting styles around the world.  I also realized that many parenting styles could in fact be compared to various economic principles.  So, I decided, why not?

In the book, we are looking at Macrofamilynomics which looks at overall trends, patterns and developments in parenting and family relations as a whole.  In this post I wanted to delve into Microfamilynomics, or some of the smaller theories on parenting philosophies.

Familynomics n the social science of how the dynamics of family relationships change, develop and grow.

Lets look at how Economic Theories can be applied to parenting: (these definitions are very loose)

Laissez Faire Parenting

Laissez-Faire Economics n An economic theory that supports little or no state intervention on economic issues, which implies free markets, minimal taxes, minimal regulations and private ownership of property.

Laissez-Faire Parenting n Parents who take a hands-off approach to parenting and believe that less rules, less intervention and management will produce more independent and strong minded kids.

Keynesian Parenting

Keynesian Economics n A macroeconomic theory based on the ideas of economist John Maynard Keynes, which argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficiency and therefore advocates active government responses to stabilize growth in private business.

Keynesian Parenting n Keynesian Parents constantly struggle between giving their children space, while guiding them in the right direction.  A mix of Marxist protection and involvement, with the desire to be Laissez Faire.

Marxist Parenting

Marxist Economics n Economic theories based on the works of Karl Marx who argued that a free market would eventually harm laborers.

Marxist Parenting n Marxist Parents believe that they must put time, effort and energy into their kids because kid’s will be unable to do it on their own.  The parents area also know as Teacup Parents or Helicopter Parents and observe, manage and invest in all areas of their children’s lives. They are worried about protecting their children from negative outside forces and tend to be very strict.

Of course, these are extreme examples. Yet, I see a lot of similarities to the parents I work with.  What kind of parent are you? What kind of parent did you have?