Kids these days aren’t solely the problem

Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

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Time and time again, teenagers are the butt of every adult rant. Kids these days don’t know real music. Kids these days don’t tip well. Kids these days are so irresponsible. Kids these days are dangerous drivers. What they don’t realize is that kids these days aren’t always the problem.

The Chicago Tribune recently published an article on a recent study suggesting distracted driving is a key contributor to teen car crashes. To spare the details, the article focused on how distracted driving is becoming a more prevalent safety issue for teenagers than texting and driving. While texting falls under the distracted driving umbrella, the term covers any distractions while driving as well, like changing the radio station, eating, or even talking to a passenger.

While driving safety is obviously nothing to laugh about, I did find the underlying message of the article somewhat ridiculous because teenagers are not the only distracted drivers on the road. Furthermore, the Tribune is not the only publication to imply that they are. Even distraction.gov, the national website for information on distracted driving, has a specific tab especially for teens and another one for parents of teens, but nothing for adults in general. To say there is little faith in American teenagers’ ability to drive is an understatement.

However dramatic it may seem, there is some validity behind the concerns. The website states traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for American teens and that teens are among the most likely to be distracted drivers. That’s a serious problem. But by spreading the notion that only teenagers have bad driving habits, adults don’t feel the same pressure to reevaluate their own behavior. On my commute to school alone, I see countless adults using their cellphones, eating, smoking, even brushing their hair. Yet how many of these same distracted drivers read the article in the Tribune and think it doesn’t apply to them just because of their age?

The problem doesn’t stop with distracted driving. Teenagers are accused of anything from being rude, tipping poorly at restaurants, and stealing from stores. This leads to ageist discrimination. Adults won’t treat teens with respect because they assume they will be rude to them. Waiters don’t provide the best service to teens because they expect a bad tip anyway. Shop workers follow teens throughout their stores to make sure they don’t take anything. And of course, police officers are much more aware of when a teenager is texting and driving than when an adult is.

This prejudice doesn’t even have to be conscious, but because of the constant reinforcement that teens are worse than adults, it still exists. The troublesome behavior teenagers are accused of can be true in some cases, but it can also be true of adults as well. Not to mention, the teenagers of today are the adults of tomorrow. In 10 years, those adults will be accusing that generation’s teenagers of the same bad habits that they were, and probably still are, guilty of. The problematic teens don’t just go away, they grow up. That’s why articles like the one in the Tribune need to encompass the behavior of all people, not just those that are younger than the author. We have to remember that any person is susceptible to making mistakes or behaving poorly, not just kids these days.

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