The Maturation of Modern Youth
BY DHRUVIKA DEEKONDA '24
Close your eyes and reminisce on your childhood, when life was as refreshing as an early morning breeze on a cool day. It’s the early 2000s, and the biggest events on the horizon are Scholastic book fairs, Crayola crayons, and Cartoon Network shows. Yet, these nostalgic memories occurred years ago. When did we all switch from what was considered “normal,” to phoning away the said best years of our lives on gadgets and caring about the way we dress? Well, societal intervention has accelerated maturation in younger generations; in this process, expectations for children have also increased, changing the way youth view and present themselves.
Technology has spurred maturation, and its effects are not always desirable. According to a 2019 report by Common Sense Media, 53% of American children have their own smartphone by age 11. By the time they’re 16, 89% of kids have one. Conversely, according to Teens and Parents research, only 45% of teens (ages 12-17) had a cell phone in 2004, indicating how previous generations did not have as much access to technology or social media while growing up. However, greater access to gadgets also leads to problems with children’s behavior and maturity. Around 1 in 3 kids lie about their age online and are being introduced to potentially inappropriate things. Influence of foul language, improper behaviors and access to inappropriate dating services are some of many mentionable examples. Consequently, it’s unsurprising that these children tend to integrate behaviors exhibited online into their daily routines.
Human inventions aren’t the only cause for a spike in youth maturity. Circumstances such as experiencing childhood trauma, as American Psychological Association (APA) states, makes the body and brain age faster, especially in adolescents. Each generation develops different values and attitudes depending on the circumstances they experience, events that occurred while growing up, and the people who influenced them. What makes today's youth different is that today’s crime rates, violence, homelessness, high rates of abusive households, and poverty have all spiked since the past few years and even more so since the pandemic. Such cases of mental pressures and circumstances cause early maturity. Situations such as abuse severs “faster development of brain regions that play a role in emotion processing” that “help children identify and respond to threats, keeping them safer in dangerous environments,” says Katie McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard University. Society often treats children who have been through such circumstances as taboo by putting them in psych wards, asylums, and foster care centers where they might be dehumanized even more. By cutting them off from normalcy, they are left to fend for themselves, further inciting a rise in their maturity levels.
At the end, youth maturity is attributed to a myriad of factors: the latest technological advancements, the kinds of people we are surrounded by, and the food we nourish ourselves with. Society’s expectations aren’t necessarily new, they have always been there. The only way to alter these mishaps is by fixing our judgements and letting youth grow up the way they want to. As community members, it is our responsibility to make sure children can grow up freely—without excessive societal influence.