Spoiled Teens Tune Out

We may be babying our high school kids toward failure

Parent-coddled and technology-swaddled, these same kids are certainly not in a position to help make America great again. With so much handed to them, they have little or no idea how to work hard for the goals in their lives.

Parents hand over wads of cash to their kids, often for no reason at all.

“This generation of high school kids is different than any other, and they see a different world out there,” Larry Rosen, a research psychologist and expert in the psychology of technology, told LifeZette. “They are ensconced in a techno-cocoon with their devices. They have been raised with technology where everything happens in an instant. So they develop the thinking, ‘I deserve what’s good right now; I want that and I should have it.’”

He added, “This is why many people feel this is the most narcissistic generation ever.”

Cash Rich, Common-Sense Poor
The coupon site Voucher Cloud found that 71 percent of parents said they regularly give their kids money. Sixty-one percent give money as a reward for good behavior and achievements, and 55 percent say the cash is a bribe to make kids behave better, according to the 2014 survey. And that’s for kids 10 and under.

As the kids grow, so does the amount of money they get.

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“I probably give my 11th grader at least $40 a week so he can eat out with friends – this in spite of a fully stocked fridge at home,” said one Boston-area mom. “I want him to be able to take part in what his friends do. I don’t want him to miss out. That’s $160 a month just for restaurants.”

Work is for … Jerks 
The part-time job is also going the way of the cassette tape and bell-bottom jeans, in many cases. In the summer of 2000, 51 percent of teenagers worked. In 2009, just 33 percent did.

The number of participants in high school sports increased for the 25th consecutive year in 2013-14 with a record total of almost 7.8 million, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Additionally, 57 percent of children between ages 6 and 17 participated in at least one after-school extracurricular activity, according to a 2014 Census Bureau report.

Related: Uniform Wars

Until the late 20th century, a more economically diverse population held high school jobs, according to a 2014 study in the National Bureau of Economic Research. Now, it’s mainly lower-income students who flip the burgers and work the registers.

Can You Spare a Dime, or a Lexus?
A recent poll of teenagers who participate in the Junior Achievement program found that more than 11 percent are carrying their own credit cards, according to the Associated Press.

Today’s high schoolers have some pretty nice sets of wheels, too. An American high school parking lot in many middle- and upper-income neighborhoods often looks like a luxury-car dealership.

Boston-area dad Brian Tobin has a problem with that. “Why would I spend $30,000 on a car when I’m going to have over $200,000 in college bills just two years later? And the driving age should also be raised to 18 [in many states it is 17 or even 16]. This generation is too immature — and too distracted — to be given the responsibility of driving.”

Tech-ed Out
Today’s teens are awash with technology and frequently online, but often very unplugged from their parents. Parents of K-12 students will spend on average of $873 on their children this year, according to technology company Rubicon Project’s June survey of 1,000 parents.

“Today’s high schoolers are straddling two generations — the ‘iGeneration’ of the ‘90s, who regularly used individualized devices, and the ‘Generation C’ — C is for ‘Connected.’ They are online and tuned in to their social groups 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” Rosen said.

Related: Screen-Free Parenting

Parents usually purchase the cell phones, facilitating the connection. But just try to take a phone away from a teen, or get a kid to put one down, even during dinner.

“My parents take my cell phone as punishment, but they always give it back earlier than they say they will, because they want to be able to get in touch with me,” said Devon Bruzezze of Reading, Massachusetts. “It’s a communications issue.”

Wild and Crazy Parties
Kids call the shots in many decisions about their social lives. Take the rise in co-ed sleepovers — in high school. Professionals who treat and study teens say that the co-ed college culture seems to be filtering down to younger teens, the New York Metro Parents Magazine reported.

“I let my daughter do a co-ed sleepover against my better instincts because everyone else was doing it, and she talked me into it,” one New Mexico mom told LifeZette. “I was up all night castigating myself. I knew it was wrong. These are kids, not adults.”

Related: Let Them Eat Cake

Special teen celebrations have gone from a fun party in the backyard to catered affairs held in banquet halls or other opulent spaces. The senior prom, once attended using Dad’s borrowed car and in a rented tux and store-bought gown, now often resembles a mini-wedding that can tip the scales at $1,000 for a single night.

Who’s the Parent Here?
Attitudes between teens and their parents are fundamentally shifting in many households as well, more closely resembling relationships between friends than parent and child. This relaxed attitude can lead to lack of respect for the very people who are working so hard to make all the bells and whistles of teenage life possible.

“Some of my friends tell their parents to ‘shut up,’ and the parents are fine with it because they know they’re joking,” said a 16-year-old from Reading, Massachusetts. “My parents would never let me do that. Respect is important to them.”

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For seniors in high school, getting into college has become a stressful family affair, as Mom and Dad frequently micromanage every detail of the process. Where once the student was responsible for his college applications, many parents now worry as much as or more than the applicant himself.

“Reach” and “safety” schools are discussed and debated by the parents while their high schooler often is off playing video games.

“I was doing the sweating, the filling out of forms — I’m even sad to say I was ‘heavily involved’ in the essays,” one Maryland mom said. “My son was just so lax about it all. I was saying to myself, ‘He’ll grow up in college, I’ve just got to get him there.’”

Related: College Confidential

William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University, told the New York Times he has been “stalked” by overinvolved parents. He’s even received credible death threats after rejecting students.

The verdict on this generation is just coming in, with reports of college kids having trouble with even small amounts of independence.

“The same rules still apply in parenthood. Be consistent. Use reasonable discipline and commit to it,” Rosen said.

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