In the past few years, I have been blessed getting to know teens and young people. The youth I know defy the negative stereotypes many have about teens, and prove that there is much more to young people these days than what we see portrayed in the news.

My husband and I have gotten to know our sons’ friends and teammates.  We participate as much as we can in their athletic involvements, and I get an added benefit working as a substitute teacher for grades 6-12 at a local Christian school.

I spend time with teens in social settings and in the classroom. I observe them with their friends and watch their efforts in extra-curricular pursuits.  I also talk with them and try to keep up with what they’re going through – celebrating their joys and caring about them when situations are tough.  Through these relationships and involvements, I am continually amazed by who they are, their accomplishments, and their goals for the future.

Teens today are much more advanced, mature, and accomplished than my friends and I were at their age!  This generation of teens/kids are the first “digital natives”, meaning that they are the first generation to grow up in the digital world. Technology is first nature for them.  They seem to instinctively know all things tech.  Consequently, they integrate technology into all aspects of their lives – solving problems, doing research, creating, accomplishing tasks, planning for their future, and of course, socializing.

Teens today do not use a telephone much, or even email.  Most communication is done by texting and using social media.  Through technology, they are incredibly connected.  If you need to get the word out about something, just instruct a teen to text, tweet or post.  Within seconds, the message is out.  With this capability, teens today mobilize and organize quickly.  They use technology to discuss school work, share information, and coordinate times, dates and locations.  This was extremely helpful recently when my son and I could not find the location of a baseball tournament. While I was trying to input info on my GPS, my son made a few clicks on his smart phone, and in seconds, we knew where we needed to go and where our friends would be when we got there.

Teens today are much more advanced academically than many older adults were at their age.  By the time my sons were in 6th grade, I could no longer help them with math.  (Please keep in mind I’m more of an English person. ha ha).  They are accomplishing work in middle school that we did in high school, and work in upper grades that we did not study until college.  It is amazing. They also have a great desire to succeed and perform well – although a recent study by Princeton Review revealed that students today are more focused on getting good grades than actually learning.  This will be a problem for them later on.

Teens today are growing up in the global world, making them much more aware of the world and needs around them.  Most schools have service hours requirements and offer ways of serving locally and in far away places.  However, teens today are serving beyond their requirements, finding opportunities for mission work through churches, mission-based organizations, and pursuing their own interests individually – like volunteering in animal shelters, working with disabled people, and mentoring children.

In addition to academic and service involvements, many teens also spend hours pursuing extra-curricular interests.  Teens I know are involved in sports, arts, theater, music, horses, Scouting, clubs, and more.

It is a good thing teens are so devoted to studies, service and personal interests, because there is a lot of pressure on teens today.  Colleges have set the bar high, requiring much of today’s students to compete for college acceptances and, especially for scholarships.

Teens today are also just that – teens!  Like preceding generations before them, they are all about looks, clothes, dating, cars (and trucks!), independence, and trying to find their identity in this world.

Yet, somehow, with all that they have going on, they are still about relationships and family, trying to be responsible, striving to be good people, and many are devoted in faith or trying to figure out what their faith beliefs are.

Today’s teens are awesome young people!  Whether they look like the All-American kid next door, or have tattoos, weird hair cuts, unnatural hair color, or body piercings, give them a chance.  See them for who they are, representatives of hopes and dreams for tomorrow and beyond.  I watch them graduate and feel good knowing that they are preparing themselves to be the leaders, innovators, teachers and caregivers of our future.  May God bless them and be with them always.

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