What’s the matter with kids today?

Katie Johnson

When first I walked the hallowed halls of Cedar Park High School, a trembling freshman still convinced that glitter lip gloss was God’s gift to mankind, I made sure to respect the sacred high school social codes of which I had heard tell. I shuffled obediently from class to class, careful to recognize my lowly place within the school’s delicate caste system. Seniors were the law, the top of the food chain, the cream of the crop, and the freshmen were expected to respect their superiority.

I looked to the day that I would become a senior with endless excitement, imagining myself sitting atop a golden throne, underclassmen fighting to carry my books and do my homework. But, unfortunately, that day never came and never will.

Things are different now. Freshmen run free throughout the school, congregating in groups that dam the halls, speaking in high pitched squeals—completely uninhibited by upperclassmen. The sacred codes have been forgotten and all of the pathetic groveling I did throughout my freshman and sophomore years has failed to pay off. Gone are the days of honoring elders, respecting the wise; now is the time of irreverence.

But what, we must ask, caused such a drastic change in our youth? What caused such a dramatic disregard for age and experience?

The culprit, it seems, is simply the environment in which the children of today are raised. Society’s ever-increasing desire to be ahead—technologically, socially, athletically, spiritually—has impressed a completely new set of priorities on today’s budding teens: faster is better. This young generation, sculpted by technology and eager to match the fast pace of society, is growing up much more quickly than any previous generation, therefore basking in the illusion that they are just as mature as their elders. The earlier technology, values, and experiences are introduced, the earlier kids will begin thinking they are ready to be adults.

For example, it is now completely normal to have cell phones as early as elementary school. What is that teaching our children? “Forget learning your times tables Jimmy, you’ve got a cell phone! Technology is the future! Math is only fleeting! Reading books? Writing in journals? Outdated! Texting is the way we do it now!” But the real question is: what do elementary school students even say when they text each other? “Hey Jill! Catch you on the playground later today?” They can barely even spell yet. Think about it, parents!

Elementary and middle schools are also becoming breeding grounds for dating. Not too long ago, a middle school “relationship” consisted of several sappy notes and a little hand holding (which was pushing it). Now, I have to deal with the sixth grade couples that waltz into the ice cream shop where I work on dates, cuddling and cooing about who is cuter until it’s time to pay. That’s when the boy makes a big show of pulling out his monthly allowance and the girl smiles because she knows her sweetie’s got the big money. Come on, your mom dropped you off. She’s probably circling the block right now waiting to pick you up and take you home where you’ll put on your pajamas with the feet in them and cuddle up with your teddy bear.

However, it is the clothing kids are wearing that really takes the cake. Yes, I had a terrible sense of style myself (my favorite faux pas being the infamous all pink outfit: sparkly pink pants with a fuzzy pink blouse), but at least I wore clothes! It is amazing that parents let their preteen daughters out of the house in miniskirts that barely pass for loin cloths and tank tops that start at their bellybuttons. What happened to the days little girls dressed up in their mothers’ pearls and oversized high heels? Either our culture has warped the image that little girls want to emulate, or every mother in the country has removed the pearls from their closets in order to make room for their own street walker outfits.

It’s simple: if kids are treated like they are older than they are, they begin believing it. Not only do they lose respect for their elders, but they are cheated out of a proper childhood. They should be playing Barbie, not checking email on their Blackberries!

So snap out of it everyone! Stop racing around and sit down for a second! Children must be taught what’s right and wrong, and they are not going to learn those values from video games and cell phones. So everyone, take a breath, slow down and hit the off button. Pay attention to your kids, to your brothers and sisters, your students—spend time with them and let them take time to grow up. What’s the rush?