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The ABCs of Teens

Your essential guide to all things teen, from Adderall to Zayn Malik.
April 24, 2015, 2:05pm

Image via Flickr user Christopher Dombres.

Despite the fact that humans have been aged 13 to 19 for the entirety of recorded history, the concept of the "teenager"—someone who is not a child, yet still not an adult—is a relatively new one. The idea that there was a phase between childhood and entering the workforce came into vogue in the 1940s, when the term was first used in a Popular Science article. Presumably, the spread of higher education, coupled with America's post-Depression/post-World War II economic boom, led to a need for fewer family members to enter the workforce, creating a new class of humans with advanced bodies but horrific judgment who were left to fuck around, fuck up, and just plain fuck, for multiple years of their lives. What's more, recent studies suggest that adolescence doesn't truly end until they're around 25, which means that more of us are teens than ever before.

Even though teens are all around us, we understand them less and less. Recently, the New York Times got duped into reporting comments from an alleged teen from Mississippi named "Joe Stevonson" in an article about the rise of vaping among the youth. Stevonson, who claimed his favorite e-cigarette flavor was the Lil Ugly Mane-endorsed "Courtroom," turned out to be a Twitter user named @drugleaf, who was in fact not a vape-obsessed teen named Joe from Mississippi. Which is to say, even the New York Times doesn't understand teens enough to know when someone's fucking with them.

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In a way, trying to keep up with teens is like being a human trying to keep up with a herd of salmon desperately swimming upstream to mate. As slippery as the kids these days may be, if you break it down, teens are really only interested in 26 things, and they all happen to start with different letters of the alphabet. I took it upon myself to dive into the waters of the young and find out what teens are like right now and offer a Snapchat of youth culture just as fleeting as youth itself.

A Is for AFLAME

Greek legend says that the titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to mankind. If that legend were actually true, Prometheus would have been a teen, because teens sure do love setting shit on fire. Namely, themselves. Hanson O'Haver, VICE's Social Editor and erstwhile author of the celebrated This Week in Teens column, devoted not one but two swaths of internet real estate to the dubious trend of teen self-inflamation—one debunked the fake trend of teens dousing themselves in lighter fluid and then turning on the shower or jumping into a body of water before they burned to death, while the other reported on a kid who crashed his car after his friend in the passenger seat lit his armpit hair on fire. It's not all bad when it comes to fire and teens, however. When the teen-beloved rapper Lil B's Concord, California apartment caught on fire, he was alerted to the blaze by his teenage neighbor. Thanks, teen.

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B Is for BEER

At the tail end of 2014, the organization Monitoring the Future made the happy discovery that teens were drinking at lower rates than they'd been the year before. Hooray! But before you throw a party for your teen and all their friends to celebrate, make sure their friends aren't sneaking any booze in under your nose—a new measure in Fort Collins, Colorado is being proposed that would fine parents who throw parties where alcohol is consumed underage, even if they didn't provide it.

C Is for CONCENTRATION DRUGS

The New York Times reported that A.D.H.D. diagnoses are on the rise, and with them, adderall use, both prescribed and non-prescribed. While adderall abuse among high school seniors is already higher than that of cocaine, nearly one in five boys above the age of 11 have been daignosed with A.D.H.D. Certainly, all of those kids can't have textbook A.D.H.D., but that hasn't stopped doctors from prescribing two-thirds of them with medication. Which is to say, a lot of our teens are running around hopped up on adderall, either because of a lazy doctor or a friend with a lazy doctor.

D Is for DABS

If you google the phrase "the crack of weed" in quotations, you're going to get a lot of search results for dabs (otherwise known as "wax"). This is incorrect. Unlike crack, which is made by heating up cocaine mixed with baking soda and is the crack of cocaine, dabs are what you get when you concentrate weed to the point where you only have THC by extracting all the other, non-THC stuff with butane. I can say from personal experience that they get you high as shit. Last Christmas, a New Jersey teen was caught manufacturing dabs in her parents' garage. According to the Press of Atlantic City, the teen was "charged with manufacturing and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia." But don't worry, teens have been dabbing for a while—anxious local news pieces about THC wax have been popping up since 2013.

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E Is for ERECTIONS

At a certain point, your body starts going through changes. Unfortunately, this tends to happen when your biology is on the fritz, and if you're a boy, you're going to start popping boners left and right. And if you're a good (bad) teen, you're going to start putting those erections in weird places. Like stuffed horses in toy stores, or the brave teen @VERSACEPOPTARTS who fucked a hot pocket, a box of Pop Tarts, and a box of Fruit Roll-Ups. This doesn't just apply to extreme cases. Anyone who's lived in a college dorm knows that normal people do weird stuff when they masturbate.

Related: Teens can be exorcists too!

F Is for FUNNY STUFF

When you're a teen, your sense of humor is generally horrible. You think offensive stuff is funny because you haven't experienced (or met people who have experienced) the horrors of life that you're casually joking about. That joke about burning someone's house down is pretty funny until you actually meet someone whose house has burned down. Similarly, inside the brain of a stupid teen it might seem like a good idea to ask a girl to prom by strapping a fake bomb on your chest in your high school cafeteria. That's exactly what a La Center, Washington high school student did on Monday when he asked a girl to prom by donning a fake suicide bomb and holding up a sign saying, "I know it's a little late, but I'm kind of the bomb! Will you be my date to prom?" Despite his insistence that "it didn't even look like a bomb," the teen was suspended for five days and will reportedly miss prom.

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G Is for GAMING

Have you ever played a video game? They're great. When I was a teen, I literally wore out my copy of Tony Hawk's Underground in an ultimately futile quest to complete 100 percent of the game. This is not just because I didn't have any friends in high school, though that certainly played a part of it. As VICE recently reported, gaming addiction (and internet addiction) is a very real problem in the nation of South Korea, where prospective professional gamers spend up to 88 hours a week in front of a computer, and an estimated 50 percent of teens are addicted to the internet.

H Is for HANDJOBS

I don't really have any statistics for this one (mainly because I'm afraid to google "teen handjobs"), but the New York Post recently reported that the number of New York teens having sex was at an all-time low, which means that the number of teens giving and receiving handjobs in NYC is probably at an all-time high.

I Is for IMPRESSIONABLE

If there's one thing teens love (besides everything else I'm writing about), it's fitting in through buying stuff. Not just "stuff" in the abstract, but the right stuff. Nobody wants to be the lame-ass with the Aeropostale hoodie when everybody else is sporting Abercrombie, and nobody wants to be the goofus with the Moto X when the rest of your classmates have iPhones, which as of a year ago a staggering 61 percent of teens claimed to own.

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J Is for JUST WONDERING WHERE YOU ARE

When I was a teen, my parents installed a device in my car that monitored how fast I was driving, as well as how hard I took turns. When I complained to them about it, they told me I was lucky they weren't installing a tracking device in my car, because they could have done that instead. It turns out I was just plain old lucky not to be a teen now, because there are new and terrifying ways of keeping track of your teen. There are a bunch of apps that you can install on your kid's phone to keep tabs on them like a parole officer might with a flight-risk wearing a tracking bracelet. Mama Bear, for instance, lets you track how fast your kids are driving and their location, as well as their social media activities. If that's too much effort, the lazy parent can just turn on the "Find My iPhone" feature on their kid's iPhone, and find their location using proprietary Apple technology. Yeah, it's invasive, and yeah, your kid could just turn their phone off, but have you met a teen? They love phones.

K Is for KYLIE JENNER CHALLENGE

The Kylie Jenner Challenge is yet another in a long line of disturbing (probably overhyped) teen trends. This one involves teens trying to emulate the puffed-up lips of Kylie Jenner (the greatest teen currently teen-ing) by sucking on a shotglass and letting the suction plump up your lips. The internet is focusing on only the worst outcomes of the KCJ, positioning the act as the latest potentially deadly teen craze. It probably isn't as harmful or as widespread as the internet would have you believe, but that doesn't mean teens should be wantonly suction-ing the shit out of their lips or anything.

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L Is for LARRY

No, this doesn't refer to a weird teenage fascination with Larry King, though in an interview with Noisey king revealed that one of his kids is 15. Instead, "Larry" is slang for an imaginary romantic relationship between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson from the popular boy band One Direction. This is called "shipping," as in, "I wish Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson were in a relationship." There is even a social network devoted to the idea.

M Is for MUSIC

Image via Flickr user Kevin Dooley.

Teens like music, obviously, and who better to ask teens about music than another teen? That's exactly what our compatriots at Noisey thought, so they had their resident teen columnist ask some teens what music they like. Turns out, as always, some teens like old music, some teens like new music, some teens like hip-hop, some like rock, and (this is a new development) some teens are really into incomprehensible dubstep.

N Is for NUDES

When I was a nubile young teen I had to send pics of my underage flesh to my peers using primitive webcams and stone-age picture messaging. Today's teens have all sorts of exciting ways to sext each other. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy conducted a poll that suggested 20 percent of all teens have sent a nude and that 39 percent have sent a sexually suggestive text or IM. 69 percent (heh) of teens who sent nudes claimed to have sent them to their significant other. 21 percent of the teen girls who sent nudes shot them to a prospective suitor, while a staggering 39 percent of teen boys sent nudes to someone they wanted to get with. It just goes to show that no matter the generation, dudes will never stop trying to show people their dicks.

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O Is for OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING

Everyone messes up when they're young. Part of growing up is making egregious mistakes and then learning from them so as not to make similar, worse mistakes again. Still, sometimes our overzealous law enforcement punishes teens a bit too much. There's the teen who's being charged with attempted murder after throwing firecrackers at cyclists, and then there's the tale of the teen who may be charged for being bitten in the face by the water moccasin that he illegally kept as a pet. Austin Hatfield, the snake-teen in question, is currently in the hospital with an extremely swollen face, so you'd think that would be punishment enough. And while it's true that gossip can be poisonous to teens of any era, recently a pair of teen girls in a group home literally tried to poison their housemates by pouring bleach into their peers' drinking water. While it's unclear if the kids actually thought bleach would hurt anybody or it was just a poorly thought-out prank, unlike the snake-charmer and firecracker-hurler, maybe it's a good idea to charge these poison-wielding teens with, like, something.

P Is for PORNOGRAPHY

The discovery of pornography is an important landmark in any teenage boy's life. For some generations, that meant accessing dirty magazines and videotapes, either from their parents' stash or asking their friend with a beard to buy them some at a store. For others, it meant staying up really late and watching flabby Midwesterners flap their bodies together on HBO's Real Sex. For those in their 20s, it probably involved googling the word "boobs" with SafeSearch turned off and ogling static images of nude flesh. Not today, baby. It's 2015, and any teen with gumption and a high-speed internet connection can access a digital Library of Alexandria of streaming fuck flicks. It's sort of crazy to think about, honestly. As the New York Times pointed out last year, it's impossible to accurately measure the impact of streaming porn on teens, because it would involve a group of researchers dosing teens with a heavy amount of pornography. Which is, obviously, against the law. Still, it's not hard to imagine that if a teen were to only learn about sex from the front page of PornHub, they might have some pretty bizarre assumptions about the timeless art of seduction.

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Q Is for QUESTIONS

Why the system designed to keep teens in debt? Why them teens ain't ridin' if they're part of your set? Why they gonna give you life as a teen? Turn around give teens only 12 months for a burger? Why a teen in Texas better than Jordan? Why teens ain't savin' instead of tryin' to be fly? Why is sexting at an an all-time high? Why are teens even alive?

R Is for REGRET

Ever since teens have been on social media, they've posted things that they assumed would remain private but ended up becoming very, very public. Case in point, the teen who was sacked from her job at the Texas restaurant Jet's Pizza before she even started because she tweeted, "Ew I start this fuck ass job tomorrow," only to be fired by the owner over the very same medium.

T Is for TANNING BEDS

When I was in high school in rural North Carolina, I knew several kids who were obsessed with going to tanning beds. The teens, mostly girls, would hold memberships to several tanning establishments in the county, alternating tanning bed joints each day in order to tan daily without going too many times at each location (many tanning parlors have limits on how many times you can tan during the week). Well, the days of teens using tanning beds to achieve that specific orange crispiness may very well be over— in North Carolina, at least. Yesterday, the State House passed the Jim Fulghum Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act, which, if passed in the State Senate, will set a hard age limit of 18 on tanning beds throughout the state. Previously, North Carolina state law required teens only show up to tanning parlors with a note from a parent. Apparently this practice wasn't strictly enforced, but considering kids have been forging their parents' signatures on things since always, it probably wouldn't have been all that effective anyway.

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U Is for UNSAFE PARENTING

Everybody knew that one kid whose parents let them throw underage drinking parties at their house on the weekend. That kid was objectively extremely cool, but looking back, there wasn't really a way to know if that kid was actually popular, or if everyone was just nice to them because they could do ridiculously unsafe things at their house with little to no supervision. It was genuinely embarrassing when the kids' parents joined in on the fun, too—nothing screams "I am desperately seeking a connection with my child" than trying to party with them. Which is why it was especially embarrassing for everyone involved when Rachel Lenhardt of Evans, Georgia helped her teenage daughter throw a party with alcohol and marijuana, and allegedly joined in a game of naked Twister, only to have sex with one of her daughter's friends in the bathroom.

V Is for VINE

If you really want to know what's popping with the kids these days, check out Vine, the six-second video service where legions of micro-memes are born and die every day. If you want to read an extremely in-depth story about the massive world of Vine and its stars you can go over to the New Yorker, or if you'd like, you can just watch the above clip, which is in my opinion the funniest vine of all time.

W Is for WORDS

The beauty of language is that it evolves over time. Words that mean one thing to one generation can mean something totally different to the next, and by the time it reaches them they may have no idea why they're saying what they're saying, but they sure love saying it. This is why teens say things like "werk," "yass," "yeet," and "suss," effectively reblogging them from the cultures they originated in with zero understanding of how these words actually developed. You could get mad at it, or you could just get mad at yourself for how you probably did the same thing when you were a teen.

X is for XI

Did you know that in addition to being a good word to play in Scrabble, Xi is also the 14th letter in the greek alphabet? That's right. FourTEENth.

Y Is for YOLO

The "carpe diem" of teens, YOLO (short for "You Only Live Once," duh) pretty perfectly encapsulates the "fuck it, nothing bad will happen" attitude of youth. It can be both empowering ("I'm going to tell my crush I like them! YOLO!") or absolutely horrifying ("I'm going to jump off this bridge into a pit of snakes! YOLO!"). Either way, it is unquestionably teen.

Z Is for ZAYN MALIK

Ah, poor teens. One Direction is the hottest boy band among teens, and Zayn Malik was its hottest member. However, in the past few weeks he has become its most absent, having departed the group because being a teen idol sounds like it'd be the fucking worst. What's next for Zayn? Acting? Marriage? Both? Only time will tell, but the teens will be waiting.

Drew Millard is on Twitter.