What Teenagers Tell Their Parents

There has been some renewed discussion recently about how much teenagers tell their parents.  Much of it was prompted by a study that has recently been released by the The Korn Group, The Truth About Teens and Tweens, that looks at the lives of young people today and how much they are sharing with their parents.

The findings weren’t that surprising – teenagers generally like their parents but don’t tell them much about what’s happening on the romantic front.  In that way not much has changed since we were teenagers.

But some things have changed. So this month I thought I would outline the findings of this survey and briefly discuss some of the findings.

So what are young people talking, or not talking, to their parents about?

Korn suggests that bullying is a bigger part of everyday life for teens and tweens that many parents realise.  For many young people bullying is an everyday occurrence, just a part of life that needs to be dealt with. It can be as minor as being ignored by some friends in the schoolyard or as nasty as online hate campaigns.

One of the reasons teenagers don’t tell their parents if they are involved in bullying, and other issues, is because they are worried their parent’s will over react or become too involved in the situation.  A way to avoid this is to ask the teenager what they want you to do in regards to them being bullied.

Of course teenagers are very unlikely to share to if they are actually being bullies themselves.  We know that many people who are victims of bullying are also perpetrators as well.  It is important to ask your teenager clarifying questions when incidences arise to try and get the full picture.

Sex and relationships
The survey found tweens have changeable crushes while teens have relationships that may or may not become sexual (no big surprise). Teenagers don’t want to talk to their parents about the details of what goes on in their relationships.

This makes sense. Adolescence is time of learning how to be an adult. It is about learning to have a life without mum and dad directing every part of it.  Sexual attraction and romantic intimacy play a significant role in developing an adult identity. Plus it is just embarrassing talking about sex with your parents.

However just because teenagers are talking to their parents about the intimate details of their love lives, doesn’t mean parents don’t have to talk to their tweens and teens about sex and relating to the opposite sex.  It is vital that parents talk to their developing children about the facts of life, how to treat members of the opposite sex, how to respect themselves as sexual beings, the differences between sexual gratification and loving relationships, and to articulate values and expectations when it comes to sexual behaviour.

Parents can improve the chances of teenagers being willing to discuss by being proactive in having discussions about relationships and sexuality in the first place, but also by respecting your teenager’s privacy, and not embarrassing or teasing young people about their relationships. It also is important to communicate to your teen that no matter what happens you will love and support them.

Smoking, drink and drugs
The Korn survey found drinking alcohol is almost expected at many teenage parties and marijuana is “easy” to get. This corresponds accurately with most large surveys of young people and their use of alcohol and other drugs.

Of course teenagers are going to be unwilling to share about what they have been up to – particularly if they think they will get into trouble.

Parents need to be proactive in raising the issue with their teens and tweens.  Nearly half of all Australian kids will have consumed alcohol by the age of 13. So by proactive I mean sooner rather than later.

Equipping teens with information about the effects and risks associated with drugs and alcohol.  Then also help them develop strategies to assist them make wise decisions is important.  If parents don’t set expectations peers and pop culture will.

Internet and social media
Neer Korn is quoted as saying “Teenagers are addicted to social networking sites even though some of them realise it is having a negative impact on their life.”

Probably overstating the case to some degree, but he is correct to suggest that social media play s a big part in a teenager’s life today.  The reason is because it is the connection to their peers and social life. Teenagers have always been ‘addicted’ to keeping up with the social news and relational requirements of their all important peer groups.  Social media has made that a 24 hour a day reality.

With smart phones now providing teens with a personal computer all day I know many parents are concerned about how to help their teenagers use social media wisely. An important way of reducing the risks is by talking openly with your teenager about the risks and consequences of posting and disclosing about personal details online.

It is also important to discuss boundaries regarding use of digital technology.  Just as you wouldn’t let your teenager watch TV all night, not should you let them have unlimited time online.  As with all boundary conversations try to get in the habit of negotiating with your teen not dictating to them. If your teenager breaks your arrangement removing privileges is an effective response.

Friends & Family

The other non-surprising findings of the survey were:

– Teens value their families, but don’t tell them.

– Teens value their friends highly – but tend to have rotating arrangement of ‘besties’ particularly in the tween and early teen years.

So no real surprises. The basics truths still apply.  Treat your teen’s with love and respect, remind them often that you value and appreciate them, don’t over react, and be proactive in discussing the important things with them.  This doesn’t guarantee they won’t grunt, roll their eyes, or slam doors, but it does increase the chances of them talking to you when it matters.

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