It seems that, every few weeks, there is a new article or study about how we put too much pressure on kids these days.
Their SAT scores need to be perfect, and they have had to have spent a summer volunteering in Cambodia, and then, they probably still won't get into college because everyone else will have done those same things too and colleges can't take everybody, and then, if they get into college, they won't be able to afford it, and then they'll have to drop out, only what will they do then, because there aren't any jobs for people without college degrees, and who will take care of Grandma? (All of these things are said in one breath, of course.)
And yet, despite all this so-called pressure, it seems like teenagers today aren't actually doing anything. They're loitering on street corners, or texting people, or hiding behind their computers. So, even with all of this pressure put on them, they still are slacking.
Not so fast. One researcher from the University of Macedonia says that, for teenagers, "just doing nothing" is good for their health. Maria Patsarika even says in her paper that assuming teenagers are up to no good can lead them to being up to no good. She says, "Young people's practice of spending time with their friends or alone on fortuitous activities is typically seen by parents, teachers, as well as policy makers as an unproductive waste of time, which may even lead youngsters to drifting into antisocial [behaviors]."
Patsarika says that the pressure put on teenagers is problematic for their growth. Because of the focus placed on success, grades and diplomas, it leaves little room for teenagers just to enjoy being teenagers. She places the blame on the phenomenon of parents and teachers thinking of the teenage years as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, rather than its own period of development.
To make matters worse, she says, "Childhood is becoming increasingly liquidated, with the gap of generations constantly narrowing and youngsters permeating areas that were previously an adult preserve." She also adds that the constant hovering of helicopter parents is stunting teenagers' independence, which, in turn, hinders their ability to cope with and solve problems.
In addition, while it may seem that teenagers are doing nothing with their time, they are. What you view as wasting time on the Internet allows them to deeply explore interests and connect to people with different viewpoints than the ones to which they have been exposed. Meeting their friends in person, too, also allows them to feel a group dynamic and to feel like they belong somewhere.
Obviously, teenagers do need to be guided toward thinking of the future; young people are not exactly known for their developed thinking. But scheduling every moment of every day can lead to burnout, exhibiting itself in symptoms "from headaches and stomachaches to temper tantrums, sleeping problems and difficulty to concentrate at school."
The entire paper, which was published in The European Health Psychologist, can be found here.