>Teens from the perspective of a high school principal

>Yesterday we had Dr. Moses Cheng, the principal of West Chicago High School, and a dear brother in the Lord, share some of his insights on the world of teenagers. I’ve put together a summary of his insights and some common themes in his presentation.

1. The struggles and pressures of a teen today are not all that different than when we (the older generation) were growing up. However, these struggles and pressures are much more intensified as the culture as changed from one of rites of passage into adulthood to abandonment where students need to figure out how to be adults on their own. For instance, pressure in high school sports causes students to be busier than ever, more competitive, and more driven to compete and succeed.
2. Technology has had a HUGE impact on the world of a teen. Some of the specific areas:

  • Celebrity status has been redefined. With the phenomena of ‘going viral’, anyone can now be a celebrity, and this has imprinted students to want to make their mark.
  • With the advent of digital media, students are able to consume more information than ever before in HALF the time. (For more info on this, see the Kaiser Family Foundation Report on Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 year olds). Thus, media has a HUGE influence on the mindset of these teens. Combined with the ability to network and disperse information, teens have unprecedented ability to mobilize and influence one another.
  • In addition, students are used to having their entire lives recorded and on display from the time they are born. Thus, it should be no surprise that they find nothing wrong with putting their lives on display via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.
  • With the accessibility of Google, Wikipedia, etc., students have access to vast information repositories that challenge the parent as the sole authority. If a parent speaks to something, their perspective can be verified and challenged by just “googling it”.
  • Texting, Facebook, Twitter make it possible for students to always be connected, and always be engaging with their peers. Thus, students have deeper and more intense ties of loyalty and connectedness to their peers – even moreso than their families.
3. When talking with students, however, the number one influencer on their lives is still parents. As much as students put up a front that they don’t want to be led or parented, the fact remains that they still need and want parents in their lives.
Implications (my thoughts):
1. Parents must still parent. That is, they must still demonstrate by godly example the virtues that a Spirit-filled life produces. No amount of wikipedia collaboration, YouTube tutorials, Google searches can replace the genuineness and power of godly virtue.
2. We can’t bury our heads in the sand regarding technology, nor can we try to simply cut off students from technology and media. Rather, we must establish boundaries and closely monitor what and who are students are listening to. 
3. The rules for godly living do not change although the scenarios in which we are to live them do. This is what the Bible describes as wisdom – knowing the moral will of God and how to apply them in our circumstances. Again, parents may not be able to anticipate every new scenario, but we must know the moral will of God as revealed in the Scriptures well enough to help a teen work through the implications and the applications of said will. I suppose that this is what it means to impart faith to the next generation. Not just knowing, but knowing so that we might be living.
4. Information + networking = incredible opportunity to influence peers and mobilize a wide audience for the sake of kingdom causes. If parents in partnership with the church can teach and widen students’ vision of the grandeur, urgency, and power of the present and coming kingdom, the stage is set for this generation of students to carry out the mission of the Gospel in ways unseen before. I almost wish someone would write a modern-day version of William Carey’s An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens

We ended with a time of prayer for Dr. Cheng as well as a recap of the contents for the 40 parents that attended. At our next gathering, we will present a tutorial to parents about the use of Internet sites/tools to monitor and understand their teens.

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