The Worst Generation Ever

Monday, July 10, 2017

Every couple of months a story runs on an evening current affairs program about how the current generation of teenagers is out of control.

They get a bit of footage of 18 year-olds stumbling about on a night out and a social commentator shakes her head and makes inane and insulting comments – like she’s never worn impractical shoes herself.

News stories about teenagers stealing and fighting and forming gangs are continually broadcast, with a special horror reserved for girls. In ads they’re given solemn voiceovers: ‘Are you really safe?’

If we’re not being demonised as randomly violent in the news – causing elderly people to side-eye us at the bus stop like we might nick off with their bag at any moment – we’re criticised for being lazy and unambitious narcissists who rely on our parents.

What’s missing from all these stories about teenagers are the voices of actual teenagers. 

What’s missing is balance, reason, and logic. All people get to hear is a select few negative and sensationalised opinions. After all, stories about teenagers doing well just wouldn’t get people watching, would they?

Fear and sensationalism sells papers and drives ad clicks. All those dumb opinion pieces are written to be deliberately controversial – the writers and publishers know they’ll get a whole lot more attention if they get people riled up.

On coffee table breakfast shows they fret over how out of control the teenagers of today are, yet if they genuinely cared about teenagers there’d be a whole lot less ‘It wasn’t like this in our day!’ and a whole lot more ‘Here’s how we can actually tackle drinking culture / sexualisation of young people / mental illness.’

I believe the media engineers negative stories about teenagers to increase fear and ad revenue, which is a great disservice to both young people and older people – surely we’re bright enough not to accept at face value the line that is fed to us. Surely we’re bright enough not to believe grandiose statements about entire sections of our population. Surely adults can remember being teenagers themselves: making mistakes, and being treated as less-than, simply because of their youth.

Comparatively, Generations Y and Z have a lot more of a voice than Generation X or the Baby Boomers did, which is great, but that voice is still massively under-represented in our media.

I would love to see a bit more truth and a bit more objectivity in the media – less hyperbole, and some actual statistics every now and then. Maybe some statistics that show us how things are improving? For example, how there are now more young people achieving higher education qualifications than ever, or that this generation has lower rates of teenage pregnancy.

I want to hear more about the great things young people are doing. I know so many teenagers who are passionate about equal marriage, and equal pay, and equal rights. We’re heading towards a much more egalitarian Australia, and that’s a wonderful thing.

I like to think that in forty years I won’t be ranting about the unsavoury youths and their blasted devil music, or believing everything I see on TV (or whatever hologram or brain implant we get information through in the future).

I like to think I’ll remember that hating on teenagers is timeless (if parents in the sixties had issues with how much young people loved The Beatles, I hate to think what their opinion of today’s music might be), and that even if technology changes, the experience of being a teenager is inherently the same.

It’s confusing and tricky. You feel distinctly at-sea and do some idiotic things, but there’s no other way to work it all out. Everyone goes through it and does their best, and I think this generation is doing a much better job than the media gives them credit for.

Originally published on Birdee Mag.
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