It's a chaotic time for teens. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
It was 4:20 and the teens felt great, man, but they also had impaired cognitive abilities. It was the post-9/11 era, the effects of which were being felt in increasingly tragic and bizarre ways. It was the season of light beer, the season of darkness, the season of hope. Teens were on Cloud 9, teens were going to Heaven, and the two things may have been related because Cloud 9 was a synthetic drug sending Michigan’s youth to the hospital. History was changing, literally. In Colorado, AP US history students protested a conservative school board’s plan to emphasize “topics that promote citizenship, patriotism, and respect for authority.” It was a time a lot like the past; there was a new Bill & Ted’s movie planned and another sequel to Dumb and Dumber, featuring original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Does technology shape the culture, or does the culture shape technology? The answer to most questions is, "It’s complicated.” Yik Yak didn’t help us write this column and it was unclear if teenagers, “less concerned about privacy and data security than others,” would take to newly-launched anti-Facebook social network Ello. Internet consumption was still high, though, as was consumption of the “rave drug Molly.” That’s why a father shared a photo of his daughter on life support, following her attendance at a Denver rave. “This could be your child. Mine was responsible and did well in school. These raves are death peddlers.” Snapchat remained a popular way for teenagers to run afoul of the law. A Wyoming high school student took a selfie whilst giving a boy oral sex and now persons who shared the image could be charged for having child pornography. Two girls were kidnapped at knifepoint after sneaking out of a slumber party. Depending on how you look at things, cell phones either helped them to safety or allowed thousands of people to listen to their harrowing post-escape 911 call.
Sometimes it can be difficult to remain in control, to not feel like you’re just speeding through life. In Ohio, a 16-year-old and a 15-year-old were sentenced to 18 and 24 months, respectively, for a drag racing accident that left a 14-year-old girl dead. In Washington, a teenager called the police to break up his own party, which had apparently gotten out of hand with drugs, underage drinking, and fistfights. Of the troublesome partygoers, a police spokesperson said, "It was not their first rodeo." A 15-year-old from North Carolina with “no rodeo background” won a truck at a Tennessee rodeo. A white man in Florida who, annoyed by loud music, shot up an SUV filled with black teenagers—resulting in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis—was convicted of second-degree murder. A 21-year-old Brooklyn woman who asked three teenage girls to stop swearing on the G train was shoved to the ground and kicked until a bystander intervened. The 14- and 15 year-olds were arrested by the MTA police, and the woman, who suffered a concussion and two knee bruises, “has resumed riding the subway.”
All these things, and a thousand like them, have come to pass this week for teens so far in the year 2014. Are teens better off? Well, young people have basically begun to stop smoking cigarettes, which must a good thing. Subsequently, however, they started vaping. Scientists are still uncertain as to just how dangerous e-cigs are, but no one will argue with the fact that they’re fundamentally less badass than traditional cigarettes. The point is: Whenever one quintessentially teen thing disappears, another inevitably emerges. Rest easy knowing that somewhere, police are breaking up a lingerie party filled with middle-aged men and 16-year-old girls. Somewhere, an 18-year-old who’s been designing album covers for Gucci Mane has accidentally photoshopped Young Thug’s head onto Wiz Kalifa’s body. Somewhere, in the United States of America in the year 2014, teens are living brilliant and angst-ridden lives, as full of good and bad ideas as ever.
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