Teenagers Aren’t Any Crazier Than They Used to Be
As someone who writes a weekly column dedicated to Americans between the ages of 13 and 19, a lot of people think I consider myself some sort of teen expert. I don’t. I’m just a man who believes that our awkward youth warrant attention. After all, teens are what keep culture moving forward. Mostly, though, my feelings about them roughly echo those novelist Teju Cole expresses about American sentimentality in his unforgettable series of tweets on the White Savior Industrial Complex: I deeply respect teens, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on them, for you know they are deadly.
VICE: I write a weekly column about teenagers, but I’m really just an amateur scholar. You’re billed as a teen expert. What does that entail, exactly?
Dr. Melissa Deuter: I’ve been a psychiatrist for ten years. I primarily treat teenagers and I write a blog. A lot of what I do is for parents, because the parents are the ones seeking information about how they can improve things in the family.
One common sentiment is that today’s kids are so much worse than generations past. Have you noticed a decline in behavior among teens, both in the ten years that you’ve been practicing and also in comparison with your own youth?
No, I don’t think kids these days are any different than kids when I was a teenager. I think parents are different, and cultural expectations are different, and the way we teach kids and supervise is different. For example, teenagers now have been supervised more heavily. When I was a kid, I’m not going to say I walked up the hill both ways in the snow, but I walked a mile to school with my siblings, unsupervised. That was common and people weren’t scared about doing that. Now most kids spend most of their time directly in contact with adults who supervise them. That changes how they behave and how they relate to adults but I don’t think kids themselves are inherently different. It’s just that when you change the soil, the plant looks a little different.
In your mind, there are more restrictions on kids now?
There’s more supervision; I don’t know if it’s restrictive. When I was a kid, there was a lot more time that kids played with other kids and adults weren’t overseeing them. Maybe the parents now are overseeing kids and really letting them do a lot of things, but the parents are there. That wasn’t the case a generation ago.
So there’s less independence.
You have a lot less independence. They talk about entitlements. 20-year-olds are now going into the work place, being difficult or wanting their hand held. A lot of those differences come directly out of always being supervised.