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Defining moments of a younger generation
–by Candice Vance | March 19, 2007

One moment can forever transform a generation. Whether it was WWII or the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the result was the same. A generation of Americans was forever changed in a way that would differentiate it from any others. The impact has repercussions long after the moment it happened and can virtually transform a generation.

Photo credit: gAntico

The defining moment for my generation was undoubtedly the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. At twelve, I remember hearing the screams and cries of people on the radio as I was on my way to school. But school, which should be a safe haven, only prolonged the nightmare. There was no class that day, only hours of watching the same devastating footage of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center, smoke engulfing the area, and people running for their lives. For a twelve-year-old, these images were all too real. Instead of worrying about my next homework assignment or playing with my friends, I found myself worrying about terrorism and when the next attack would occur. For children of this impressionable age, the images of the airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center, as well as the devastation that followed, was all too much to handle, and the results were traumatic.

To say that my generation views the world in a cynical manner would be an understatement. Most teens believe that the world is dangerous and that it is not becoming any better. This is a striking contrast from the 1990’s, when teens believed that the world was becoming a better place. Furthermore, there have been numerous studies, including those by Young London Teens and Who’s Who Among American Teachers, which suggest that the biggest fear of teens is personal safety. Considering what they witnessed, on 9/11 and at their young age, it is not much of a surprise.

However, instead of giving up, teens are prepared to fight against the world’s evils, even if they believe that the odds are against them. Two of the top values for teens, according to a GenWorld global survey, which was conducted by the Energy BBDO agency network, are real-world courage and determination. These teens, therefore, are determined to fight for a cause in which they believe, in addition to their desire to do whatever it takes to create a better life for themselves. Education and hard work are their keys to success and they are prepared to fight and work hard to get whatever they can out of “the system.” Though they are cynical in that they believe that the professional world is simply “a system,” they still have some hope for a better future. This can be compared to their belief that they are living in a dangerous world, which was only amplified by the events of 9/11. However, as many hope for a future of peace, teens hope for a future of success.

Of course, there have been past generations that have had the desire to fight for what they believe in, namely during the Civil Rights Movement. However, this current generation differs itself from that generation in the sense that they are concerned with helping themselves versus that generation, which was most concerned with fighting for the rights of others. Some may view that action as self-centered and narcissistic. However, considering that they view the world as dangerous and punishing, one can empathize with their belief that it is not easy for someone to find success for himself, let alone for others, as well. This “every man for himself” attitude can also be related back to their sense of determination, as previously mentioned. Teens are determined to find success for themselves alone. They realize that if they don’t step up to the challenge, they will not succeed against society’s problems. And in this “dangerous” world, many teens sadly choose to put the bulk of their energy into achieving their own successes, versus helping others in need.

Photo credit: *Fly*

The interesting quagmire in this scenario is the fact that as teens become more self-centric, they still desire to be socially connected. Teens, of course, are more “plugged in” than ever, with many owning multiple electronic devices. So, teens, who typically have a cell phone in their hand or a blackberry in their pocket, have built for themselves a social networking system that is enormous. And websites, such as the ever-popular Myspace and Facebook, only allow this network to grow exponentially. Even though teens have an “every man for himself” view of life, they still yearn to connect with their peers.

This change in attitudes and values between generations is sure to have long-lasting consequences, especially in technology. As this generation grows older, closeness and support from others will become even more important; therefore, technological advances will be sought after to ensure that these friendships and support groups are readily available at the click of a button. In addition to this, because of teen’s desire to improve their lives, education will become more valuable. This trend has been visible over the past decade with a sharp increase in the number of students that are attending college straight out of high school, which is only expected to continue. So it is not too far-fetched to expect an increase in the number of college graduates in the coming years.

However, that is only one side of the story. As I mentioned earlier, teens desire to work hard to get what they can out of the system. Yet, this mentality combined with a new-found awareness of the many dangers in the world can have disastrous effects. People will be increasingly stressed-out and consequently, drug usage, both pharmaceutical and recreational, could be on the rise, as well. Sadly, this is a trend that has already begun. Only recently has the overall rate of drug usage among teens begun to stabilize; but, the number of older teens using marijuana is still on the rise. And as a result of this trend, it is likely that as these teens mature into adulthood, they may even begin to use stronger drugs. Consequently, in the future, it will become even more essential for one to maintain balance in his life.

The future of our country depends on it.

Candice, 17, is currently a senior attending Canyon Springs High School in Southern California. Her interests include world languages and cultures, politics, and sports.

The views and opinions expressed in these comments do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The CulturalConnect.


March 23, 2007, 21:25:21
chai “However, as many hope for a future of peace, teens hope for a future of success.”

That sentence above hit me hard. I notice a change from the past generation’s way of thinking from my own. The way teens are described, it does make it seem as if all teens are self-centered [which is a common sterotype], yet in reality, our actions portray a more sensitive appeal to society. I believe that teens more than ever have a strong desire to take advantage of their youth; this leading to powerful repercussions that will effect society in a positive fashion. Teenagers today seem to believe that if everyone becomes responsible for themselves, then there is no need to worry about the rest of the people. This attitude allows us teens to make the most out of our life, and help others along the way.

Very powerful message. 🙂

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