Category Archives: Teenagers

Today’s Teens’ Tepid Take on Transport

My kids, all three of them, have had an extraordinarily luke-warm attitude towards getting their driver's licenses and based on conversations I've had with some of their friends' parents they aren't the only ones. Sure there are still plenty of kids chomping at the bit to get their licenses the day they turn 16, but the percentage of kids who don't seem too excited about it seems much higher these days than when their parents were that age. Why is that? Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen might provide a clue in his answer to the question of why he's so excited about the potential of car-sharing services:

Ask a kid. Take teenagers 20 years ago and ask them would they rather have a car or a computer? And the answer would have been 100% of the time they'd rather have a car, because a car represents freedom, right?

Today, ask kids if they'd rather have a smartphone or a car if they had to pick and 100% would say smartphones. Because smartphones represent freedom. There's a huge social behavior reorientation that's already happening. And you can see it through that. And I'm not saying nobody can own cars. If people want to own cars, they can own cars. But there is a new generation coming where freedom is defined by "I can do anything I want, whenever I want. If I want a ride, I get a ride, but I don't have to worry. I don't have to make car payments. I don't have to worry about insurance. I have complete flexibility." That is freedom too.

While Andreessen is talking about the future of car sharing services (which by the way seem much more likely to succeed in dense urban environments than in small urban/sprawl environments like where my family lives) he's stumbled on an important influence on our kids today – they don't need cars to connect with their friends because they have smartphones, computers and game consoles to connect.  Sure their parents had phones, but with the exception of the lucky few who had their own phone lines in their bedrooms they had to share the phone with the rest of their families and had zero expectation of privacy. Today's kids don't just have private phone conversations they have the ability to have private video chats which their parents could only dream about 30 years ago.

In the case of our youngest, who is well into his 17th year of life and has no desire to get his license, he doesn't even have to leave the living room to play games with his friends. Thanks to Xbox Live he plays games with/against them all the time. His dad had to use that shared family phone to call his friends to coordinate a time to meet at the arcade to watch each other play Galactica. Once that beautiful day in the early 80s rolled around when he got his first Atari system he called his friends over so that could play Atari football head-to-head!

The point is that teens are decreasingly equating a driver's license with freedom. In fact our youngest has flat out said that he's dreading getting his license because he doesn't want the responsibility. On the other hand his dad is pushing him hard to get the damn license so he doesn't have to keep getting out of bed an hour earlier than normal in order to get the kid to school in time to catch the bus to the career center!

But I digress. There truly is a large behavioral shift going on with the younger members of our society. Thanks to the mortgage meltdown many young adults no longer assume that homeownership is all that their parents thought it was cracked up to be, and now that people have mobile networks at their disposal they're no longer socializing in the same way either. Of course kids will still want to get together to party and act like the fools they are, but how often they get together and how they get there is changing very quickly and those habits and patterns will last into their adult years. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

A Guide to Man Training

It's interesting to be the father of a young woman who is in college and dating. What's interesting is not the act of dating – I really don't want to think about the whole thing – but the realization that she's saying things about her boyfriend that her mother (and the unfortunate ladies I dated before meeting her) likely said about me. I get to hear them because I'm usually in the vicinity when she's talking to her mom about this stuff, and I get the call when her mom isn't available for some reason. Any port in a storm, right?

What that means is that I'm in the enviable position where I get to observe that confounding species, the dating woman, from a safe perspective. Kind of like watching a lion from a blind. Anyway, it occurred to me that while the advice she's getting from her mom is invaluable there's a certain perspective that only a dad can provide and it might be helpful to share. Without further ado here's some dating advice from a wizened, middle-aged dad who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt:

  1. Some guys just aren't domesticable so you need to figure out where your line is and when he crosses it you MUST be prepared to cut and run. 
  2. Prioritize. You can't have it all so figure out what's important to you and look for that in whoever you're dating.
  3. If he's an ass to people he thinks aren't important, like waiters and desk clerks, then he'll probably be an ass to you some day.  This really applies to everyone, not just guys you're dating.
  4. This one's important – if a guy treats you like crap when he's been drinking, even once, then you absolutely must dump his butt. If a guy lays a hand on you in any way without you wanting him to then you must not only dump him but get the authorities involved. Also, don't tell your dad until after the jerk has been locked up so your dad doesn't do something to get himself locked up.
  5. If a guy says he can't stand your friends then dump him immediately. One caveat: if he doesn't like one of your friends and that friend is kind of high maintenance then he might be doing you a favor. In all other cases he's likely an insecure, jealous jerk who wants you all to himself and that's not healthy for anyone.
  6. Don't think you can change his fundamental character. If he's not "nice"when you first meet him then he's not going to magically become nice just because you've cast your pretty eyes on him and granted him the favor of your company. Ain't gonna happen.
  7. Don't forget that you really are unreasonable sometimes and that your expectations can be out of whack.  You're human, not perfect, and you shouldn't take it out on him when he points it out (at least the first time).
  8. Don't ask your dad for dating advice. Secretly he wants you single so he'll likely give you some really bad advice like, "Break up with him and enter a convent." Reserve dad for the important events like threatening to castrate your ex if he doesn't leave you alone.
  9. Listen to your mom or another older woman in your life if your mom isn't available. They've been training men for a long time so you might as well take advantage of their experience. 
  10. Remember that whatever redeeming qualities your father might have it took the women in his life (mother, wife, sisters, aunts) a very long time to beat them into him. Unless you're dating a far older man – something I most definitely don't recommend since older, available men are usually that way for a reason – you'll have to live with the fact that you're in the man-training business for the rest of your life. Men don't come ready-made and we should all have "much assembly required" tattooed on our foreheads.
  11. Last point and it's the most important: your heart will be broken. Whether it's from a break up or from his insenstivity your heart WILL be broken. That's what happens when you open yourself completely to another human being. And that's okay because you'll recover and when you do you'll be far stronger and more prepared for running the marathon that is life. 
  12. I lied. There's one more point: ice cream helps recover from heart break. Alot.
  13. I double-lied: Calling your mom helps too, and in a pinch you might be able to talk to dad AND he might be able to resist giving you advice for once.

Uber Teens

Uber is a service that allows you to use an app on your smartphone to book a ride with a car service. Right now the service is available in several large cities around the country so it's not currently relevant here in small-city North Carolina, but the reason it hit my radar is a blog post a mom wrote about why she signed her teenage daughter up for the service. An excerpt:

When I met the Push Girls last year I noted that four of the five women I met were in wheelchairs because of car accidents. The accidents were all excessive speed or alcohol fueled. If a smart phone app can get my child home without risking dangerous driving conditions I’d be a fool to not use it.

Parents of teens: I’m going to ask you to do something we should all do at least once a day. I want you to be still and quiet and try to remember being 14 or even 17. Now put yourself at your friend’s house and their parents have just left. All of a sudden 5 other kids appear and they’re thinking about drinking a beer and smoking some pot. What does the 14 year old you do?

The only answer I have is that I know the 14 year old you doesn’t call Mommy for a ride home.

Now imagine the same scenario. The 14 year old you pulls out a smart phone (it’s probably already out) and texts for a town car. 14 year old you can hop into the back seat of a limo and get home. My credit card information is already stored in the app, no money changes hands and your private driver gets you home.

Boom. Done. Decision made.

That logic is pretty sound to me. In our household we have a similar rule in that any of our kids can call us for a ride and not risk getting in trouble. Sure we'll have a talk about it the next day and we'll push to make sure they avoid getting themselves in similar situations in the future, but I'd rather get a 12:30 a.m. phone call asking for a ride than risk having them hop in a car with an inexperienced driver who may or may not be inebriated. Still, how many kids actually believe their parents won't come down on them like a ton of bricks if they call for a ride in the middle of the night? Not many, which is why I like the idea of a kid having a tool at their disposal that can help them do the right thing.

There's another part of the blog post that was really horrifying to me as a father and it's about teen girls dealing with other dads who play grab-ass:

Then Laurie and I started talking about why every kid should have Uber on their phone and when we got to the part about being a teenager and on occasion not wanting to get into a car with a Dad who plays grab-ass the new Dad looked at us with horror in his eyes. Even though 100% of the adult women at the party sort of nodded and knew what that felt like I was all, “Oh but times have changed. I’m sure it will never be an issue.”

For the record it's my opinion that while having a service like Uber to get my daughter out of harm's way at that moment would be a good thing, it would also be of utmost importance that she inform me of the offending father's actions and allow me to use another tool at my service: a large can of whoop-ass.

Shocker: Teens are Dense

Anyone who's the parent of a teen will read this story and say, "Well, duh." An excerpt:

Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others.

That may not be true, as it turns out. A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results. Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it's legit.

Just remember folks, just because today's teens grew up in a world where the internet has always existed doesn't mean that they miraculously grew a gland that gave them more common sense than the generations that preceded theirs.  Heck, they're just as dumb and narcissistic as we were, but now they're armed with the means to show the world what idiots they are.  In our day the only people subjected to our idiocy were our parents, neighbors and teachers.

Oh the Inanity

Anyone who has or has had teenagers will learn nothing from this post.  Those of my friends who have little ones who are yet to reach teenager status, take this as a warning.  Here goes: teenagers, or at least teenagers in the middle school age range of 13-15, are as vacuous and disturbingly dense as any being on the face of the planet.  While they never, and I mean never, are at a loss for words they rarely if ever actually SAY anything.  They open their mouths and spew a series of random words that will sometimes form incomplete sentences with the word "like" interspersed between every third word, but they never, ever actually form a verbal paragraph much less a coherent story line. 

When young teenagers speak all parental ears can hear is "blah, blah, blah" until those fateful words "Can I have…" or "I want…" appear and then the parents know to prepare for the inevitable tantrum when their blathering progeny don’t get what they want.  Of course that’s when the kids attempt to put together a cogent argument in support of getting whatever they desire, but because the part of their brain devoted to logic has atrophied due to extended non-use they manage only to put together rambling soliloquies that cause their parents to wonder if perhaps their children are more than a little touched in the head.

I’m told this is a phase that will soon pass only to be replaced by a far more odious phase.  Older and wiser parents have informed me that while young teenagers are infuriatingly inane, they are relatively harmless.  In military terms they are fighting with broomsticks, while apparently in high school they pick up live ammo.  I believe it because it’s dawning on me that these same kids that can talk for hours about some poor girl at school with that hair will be driving in less than two years.  Armed indeed, God help us.

Canuck Law: And You Thought People in the US Were Litigious

Here’s the story: a 15 year old high school kid in Canada makes a video of himself reenacting a Star Wars light saber fight.  He leaves the tape on a shelf at the schools video lab and another student finds it and shares it with another student.  The second student digitizes it and emails it to some more kids.  A third kid decides to host the video on his website and then the video goes viral.  Life becomes miserable at school for light saber boy when all the teasing starts.

Okay, I feel bad for the kid but according to this article he and his parents sued the families of the three kids responsible for the video getting out and the parents of the three boys ended up settling the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.  Huh?

If I understand this correctly the kid made a video using the school’s equipment, left the tape on a shelf at the school (expectation of privacy?) and then when some boys found the tape and put it on the internet his family sued the parents of the kids who found the tape and put it on the internet. According to the article the three boys are accused of bullying, but aren’t all the kids that teased saber-boy the real bullies?  Why not sue them all?

The article also talks about whether any of the parents had liability insurance and how much money they had available for settlement.  Who the heck carries liability insurance for instances like this?  Am I missing a potential business opportunity here?  Insurance against over-litigious parents might be a huge growth industry:)

How to Make a Grown Man Almost Cry

My daughter asked if she could ride her bike over to her friend’s house today.  I said sure, but I wanted her home at 6:30 so we could have dinner.  She didn’t show until 7:00 and I was more than a little pissed.  This isn’t the first time she’s been late and the last time it happened she got a tongue lashing, so I was surprised it happened again.  On top of that I have to admit that tardiness is probably my biggest pet-peeve, so I’m pre-disposed to getting a mad about it.

When she got home I told her we’d have to figure out a punishment, which sent her into major-league pout mode.  She didn’t eat dinner (we went out for pizza) and sulked the whole time.  When we got home I went back into my office to do some work and she came in to ask me what her punishment would be.  I said it would probably cost her points (we have an incentive program that allows the kids to start each week with $10 in the bank, but throughout the week we give them points for things that are either done wrong or not done when they are supposed to be…each point is worth 50 cents), and she started to stomp out of my office.  I told her to come back and then we had this conversation (I’m paraphrasing):

Me: "You don’t think you deserve to be punished?"
Daughter: "I punished myself by not eating dinner!"
Me: "No, you told me you didn’t want pizza so I’d say you were pouting."
Daughter: "NO!"
Me: "Well, I didn’t ask you not to eat.  And this isn’t the first time you’ve been late, so I think maybe you need something to remind you to be on time."
Daughter: "The last time I was only five minutes late and you yelled at me…alot!"  "It was only five minutes!"
Me: "It was more than five minutes, and it doesn’t matter.  When we tell you to be home at a certain time you need to make sure you’re here on time."
Daughter, glaring at me says nothing.
Me, feeling the heat rise: "So you think it’s okay for you to be late even though you inconvenienced four other people?  We were ready to go to dinner at 6:30 and we waited 1/2 hour for you.  You think that’s fair?"
Daughter continues glaring and mutters something under her breath.
Me, heat REALLY rising: "You don’t want to be punished!? Fine, I won’t punish you.  But remember this moment the next time you ask me to give you a ride somewhere or even better, remember this moment when I decide that it isn’t important to be at one of your soccer games on time and I feel like getting there 1/2 hour late.  Just remember it."
Daughter, shooting death daggers at me with her eyes: "I HATE YOU!"
She turns and leaves.  On her way out I say, "I’m sorry you hate me because I love you very much."
Daughter: "I don’t care."

I don’t care who you are, those last two hurt.  Of course I couldn’t let it show (I’m a guy), but it stung like hell.  Thankfully Celeste saw what was going on and came in and talked me down.  She also coached me on how to patch it up…I’d tell you how, but I’m thinking I could rent Celeste’s advisory services to other fathers of teenage girls.  If my household is indicative I’ll be able to quit my day job.

My daughter is only 12 and I’m worried I may not make it to 13.  I don’t even want to think about 14-20.  God help me.