Teens Taking the Scenic Route to “Adulting”

Posted by Jane Ott on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 @ 01:45 PM

The Journal of Child Development recently released a study showing that modern teens are exhibiting a slower developmental path in adopting adult behaviors like dating, alcohol use, working for pay, and driving.  These phenomena have been evolving gradually, even before today’s ubiquitous access to information through technology, and across parenting styles.

So what’s going on?  Are parents doing a better job at raising responsible teens?  Is technology delaying behaviors teens historically chomp at the bit to reach (e.g., using Uber instead of driving)?  Are teens just too busy to have time for anything other than their activities and homework?  Or, are today’s teens’ choices and behaviors a result of being raised with comfortable lifestyles and immediate access to information?  The study’s authors argue the latter.

They suggest that there has been a fundamental change in the social and cultural atmosphere of U.S. teens’ childhoods. Overall (across ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and geographies), their childhoods reflect a “slow life strategy.”  From an evolutionary perspective, this represents a less urgent need to undertake adult-like behaviors to sustain the succession of their gene pool.

In contrast, a “fast life strategy” is one in which life expectancy is lower, higher education is less prevalent, and fewer resources are available.  In those times, the focus becomes survival; so teens and young adults are more likely to have a need to act on adult behavior sooner (like driving oneself, getting married, and working outside the home).

Don’t get us wrong, teens are still engaging in these “proto-adult” activities, but the number of teens doing so has dropped off considerably over time (first identified in 2000).  And, their childhood milieu generally reflects a population with higher levels of education, smaller families, and fewer stresses on resources than those of previous generations.  As a result, there is less of a drive to act on these adult behaviors because there is less of a need to grow up “now,” now. 

Here at YouthBeat®, we see that despite these broad cultural trends, teens’ lives aren’t completely carefree.  Their top three most common fears aren’t about friendships, appearances, or social lives; they are weightier ones about their loved ones and their ability to thrive:

  • Being a failure
  • Family member dying
  • Not getting into a good school

Our POV: Give teens a break! They are worried about moving forward in life and need to know that adults are looking out for them and paving the way.  How can your brand be reassuring for teens building their life plans?

Source: YouthBeat® Total Year 2016

Tags: kids tweens teens, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, youth research, Teens, Teen Culture

Fault in Our Stars and Finding Balance in Teen Culture

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jun 04, 2014 @ 01:23 PM

Later this week, 20th Century Fox will release the highly anticipated Fault in Our Stars MovieFault in Our Stars (FiOS), a teen romance based on the best-selling 2012 Young Adult novel by John Green.  Social media has been buzzing over this movie for years, and the excitement is getting even more intense as the premiere date gets closer.  The trailer for the film has nearly 20 million views, and John Green has been popping up all over social media promoting the film. 

The success of FiOS might seem surprising.  There are no supernatural creatures, it’s not set in a dystopia where teens must fight to the death, and it lacks much of the dark, fantastical elements we’ve come to expect in teen media.  It’s a realistic story about two terminally-ill teens who meet and fall in love.  The story isn’t new to Young Adult fiction (or “YA” among the indoctrinated!), but Green’s story has made a huge impression on teen and adult readers.  A lot has already been written about what makes FiOS so successful (its raw emotions, its universal story of love and life, its compelling characters, etc.), but we thought of a different reason as to why FiOS is not only so wildly popular, but also why it’s popularity isn’t that surprising.  

Teen culture has always been about balance.  For every bad boy, there is a boy next door; for every nerd, a jock; and if there’s heartache, there’s a new romance.  The list could go on.  Even popular culture aimed at teens balances itself.  The crazy stunts and outrageous antics of Lady Gaga are balanced by Taylor Swift’s wholesome good-girl. 

After years of supernatural creatures and murderous teens, FiOS balances YA literature and teen culture.  For years, teens have been bombarded with (and rabidly consumed by) dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and dystopia.  Just when it looked like the scale was beginning to tilt a little too far, along came FiOS with its human, fallible characters, its awkward romance, and its gritty exploration of a very real and very human issue: illness and death.  FiOS provides teens with something different, something to offset the media they’ve been consuming for so many years. 

Even John Green himself is vastly different from other YA authors.  Green was one of the first major vloggers on Youtube, a platform he has used successfully to speak to teens and promote his books.  Green tweets and takes to Tumblr. His celebrity status and willingness to engage with teens has led some to call him the "teen whisper", unlike Stephanie Meyers and Suzanne Collins, neither of whom have actively engaged with their audience in the ways Green does. 

While it might be easy to talk about the importance of tension in teen products or offerings, we think a bit of balance might be a better formula for success. Extreme might make for a headline, but balance makes for a bestseller.

Tags: Lady Gaga, Teen Culture, movie, Taylor Swift, John Green, Teens