When news reports described the horrendous rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, at the hands of two high school football players at a party, my 17-old-year son came to me after reading the details of the attack and said, “My generation is a bunch of jerks.”
Now, two weeks after those teens were convicted in juvenile court, I read about another awful story involving teenagers.
In Georgia, a mother walking with her baby was confronted by two teenage boys demanding money. When she told them she didn’t have anything, they shot her baby in the face and killed him.
In the Ohio case, the boys at the party not only violated the girl, they carried her around the party like a deer hunter’s prize laughing and making comments. Rather than stop and help an inebriated young woman who clearly made a very foolish decision to drink herself into a stupor, other partygoers simply watched, took pictures, or commented about the incident on social media.
Both incidents make one pause and wonder what’s going on with America’s next generation. As parents, are we raising a responsible group of future good citizens and leaders or are we acting more like bystanders as America’s young people carry out their own real life versions of Lord of the Flies?
It would be wrong, of course, to just lump this generation of teenagers together as uniformly and uniquely evil. Bad behavior is certainly nothing new. The 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause didn’t just spring from the filmmaker’s imagination. Every generation has its bad kids.
The question is whether or not this generation not only engages in the type of rebellious behavior typical of that age group but is also uniquely insensitive to how their own actions affect others in a way that can be considered sociopathic.
If the latter is true, as parents, we have a lot more to worry about than our parents ever did, and we bear a tremendous amount of responsibility for this outcome.
It boggles the mind to think of anyone being able to shoot another human being in the face. It’s even worse to imagine doing something like that to a baby. What kind of mind does it take to do such a thing?
Seeing another human being “injured” (in the Ohio case, drunk) and sitting by and watching that person being treated worse than an animal takes a lack of human empathy I can’t even imagine.
We’d all like to think these sorts of events are isolated cases. Unfortunately, a few years ago at my son’s private school, parents dealt with issues of bullying that culminated in a very bad incident. Sadly, the event that finally resulted in the school trying to get a better handle on the bullying really should have surprised no one and was borne out of the same sort of insensitivity to the rights and feelings of others shown in these more well-known recent cases.
Kids these days live in a completely different world than we did growing up. Social media has opened up a whole new world to them to learn new things and meet new people. It may also help dilute their sensitivities in dealing with others.
As parents, it’s our duty to instill a sense of compassion and responsibility towards the rights and feelings of others in our children. When we don’t do this and very bad things happen, we are just as responsible if not more so than our children for the outcome.