The Secret Life of the American Teenager

February 21, 2010
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The scene opens and there she stands. Her name is Haley. The plot starts off with Haley and her best friend in first grade. Every day they would go on the playground and Haley would always talk about her horses. As time moves on, though, people change and Haley eventually ceases to be that innocent, horse loving girl. Fourth grade—she’s with a new crowd. Sixth grade---suicide attempts. Seventh grade---cigarettes. In 8th grade, Haley is pregnant. As soon as she has her baby, her mom, the only one left in her unstable family, dies of a sudden heart attack, leaving Haley, her baby, and her younger twin brother and sister stranded. At the age of 14, Haley is already living the average life of an unfortunate 25 year old.
Sounds just like another episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, doesn’t it? But in this episode the plot was true. Haley was an actual person. And her childhood best friend? Me.
The sad reality is that everyday life for today’s teens is far scarier than any Hollywood writer can script. Let’s face it; this isn’t our parent’s world anymore. And most teens have found a way to deal with it: by having two sides. One side we present in public:

“Hi. Not only do I have great grades, but I am also involved in my school’s marching band, tennis, and track teams and I love to volunteer. I am highly involved in my National Honor Society as well as Key Club and due to my hard work and dedication; I was nominated to be president.”

And the other side…we keep to ourselves.

“On the weekends, I love to party. Sometimes, I have a little too much to drink and end up waking in a place that seems unfamiliar to me. Oh, and by the way, last week, I slept with my best friend’s boyfriend…oops.”

Let’s face it, we’ve all done stupid things we thought we would be fun and cool at the time but as we teens are slowly encountering more opportunities for trouble, it’s often the people who we need the most who either don’t have a clue what’s going on or may just choose to turn a blind eye. So let’s roll the camera on a typical teen’s day, then we’ll review the scene in order to examine what’s causing the problem, and finally, let’s edit the film in order to come up with a solution that might just have a happy ending.

Teens and adults, it’s time to face reality.
Welcome to the real edition of the Secret Life of the American teenager.
I start my normal school day by walking through the doors and smelling the scent of education. Education? Yeah, right, more like the scent of daily gossip and “extra-curricular” activities.
“Oh my god, dude, we were so frickin high. On the way back like seriously I had no idea what the hell was going on.”
“Party at my house Friday, only this time park like a block or two away. I don’t want to get caught like two weeks ago.”
“So I was getting some from my girlfriend last night while watching Family Guy and I started laughing. My girlfriend then like freaks out on me, saying I don’t love her. What a <beep>.”
Can you imagine your parents overhearing these things? Awkward! Now some of you make think this is funny. Some of you may think this is normal. Either way though, this is now the life of many high schoolers today.
According to Michael Bradley, an author specializing in teenagers, risk behaviors have moved down to younger and younger ages. What the parents may have dealt with when they were16 and 17; their kids are now dealing with at ages 11 or 12. In the most recent National Senior High School Survey, 44% of students admitted to trying cigarettes as early as the 8th grade. And by the time they graduated, 65% have tried cigarettes while 35% are hooked. Furthermore, four out of every five students have consumed alcohol in high school and 62% of students have claimed to being drunk at least once. And this survey doesn’t take into account any of the new ways kids can get high, whether it be through over the counter and prescription drugs to homemade inhalations. Probably the most shocking though is that these days, between 83% to 90% of every senior high school class said that they could easily get a hold of marijuana.
But it isn’t just about drug use. Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases have also sky-rocketed, because teens are having more sex now than at any other time in history. Some girls even think that they are ready to be mothers. Like who can’t remember the countless YouTube clips from the day time show Maury featuring 15-year-old Victoria…
“I’m gonna have a baby. My mom thinks that I’m not ready to have a baby but I have everything my baby would need.”
Victoria later shared with the audience that she had unprotected sex over 300 times with 15 different men, including in public places like the playground and at school. It was devastating to see the tears in her mother’s eyes as Victoria everything. And while we can all agree that Victoria is the extreme, she is not an exception.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. teen pregnancy and births, STDs, and abortion rates are considerably higher in the U.S. than any other developed country. USA Today states that just in one year, the teen birth rate has increased by 3%.
So what is causing all of this? The answer may surprise you. Of course, it’s already obvious that the media plays a big role. After all, our generation is known as the millennium generation, partly due to its mass technology. And this technology has brought us up close and personal with….well, everything. After school, right when we get home, most of us are calling, texting, checking our email, facebooking, myspacing, youtubing, twittering, skyping, catching up on movies and tv shows on our DVRs or on the internet, and if our parents aren’t home….some of us may be looking up naughty material. With more forms of entertainment becoming available all the time, kids at young ages have to deal with a major information overload. And with this media and technology, of course, we can’t forget good old peer pressure and conforming to the student body. And strangely enough, the food we eat isn’t helping. This day and age, we eat mostly hormone injected meat causing our bodies to mature faster than our minds.
And while we may live an adult body as a teen, the human mind does not fully mature until the age of 24. So what happens during that time when we are presented with more adults situations, without having the benefit of a fully developed adult mind? Well, during that time, we think with the primitive parts of our brains, usually not considering the implications of the decisions we’re making. And due to the hormone craze running through our bodies and then into our young minds, many teens experiment with sex and drugs in irresponsible ways.
Now just to be clear, I’m not saying we don’t know what we’re doing is wrong. We know…and we also know how to get away with it these days. Adults, whether it be our parents, guardians, and even teachers have unintentionally lowered the bar of expectations. Often it’s, “Oh, they’re just being a teenager” or “Boys will be boys.” But while we may appreciate this at the time, this attitude isn’t helping. Some adults are to busy to deal with our problems. Others convince themselves that it’s just typical behavior of our generation.
The most common problem though, is that most parents just find it all hard to believe. For Victoria’s mom, she wasn’t able to believe that her daughter was having sex, regardless of the countless comments her daughter received on the street. It wasn’t until she happened to walk in on Victoria having sex that she was forced to face reality, and even then it was hard to come to terms with.

So what now? What can we do to help restore our generation and the younger generations coming behind us?

Hilary Clinton once said that each of us plays a part in every child’s life: It takes a village to raise a child. Well, for us teens, we have a leading role. First off, listen to your conscience. We need to think about our decisions and make them wisely. It’s easy to think that your actions only affect you and the ones that surround you at that moment, but that’s usually not the case. We need to keep in mind that the younger generations are looking up to us, each and every moment, and that every action we do, they’ll either witness or hear about. These actions can then play a major role in their future, shaping how they grow up and behave.

And adults, you also have a starring role. The downside of the young generation is not just a teen problem. Adults: we need you too!!! We need you to step up now and help us make good decisions. You know the teenage years are hard; we need guidance because it seems as though the “Nuclear Family” is in sharp decline today. In these economic times, most families can’t afford having a stay-at-home parent so even though both parents may be working; try to spend as much time with your kids as possible. One of the most important jobs is being a parent. And other adults: if you relate to our situations, don’t be afraid to help us learn from your past. Set boundaries and guidelines for us, even if we don’t want them. Show us that you care about what’s going on in our lives, even if we seem to be annoyed by the intrusion. We won’t necessarily like you today, but we’ll love you for it tomorrow because we’ll be sure to have a tomorrow.

If we are being truthful, The Secret Life of the American Teenager isn’t really much of a secret these days. With that being said, it seems as though there is no time like the present to make sure that it is a fictional, scripted television show….instead of one being based…in reality.

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green-eyed-angle said...
Feb. 27, 2010 at 10:59 pm
Can i show this to my Health Sub because she did not belive me when i told her the same exact thing
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