This modern propensity to give information to our kids is backfiring in a number of ways. The medias mantra of the publics right to know mostly sells their products and often gives kids more information than they really need. In modern times, we are definitely an information-based society. Hundreds of channels are offered through cable TV companies. The Internet is built to disseminate information. Newspapers and TV news bombard households with a never-ending supply of drama, as do soap operas and reality TV. We keep thinking that if we ever get enough information, well be better off somehow. For decades movies were made for families; now we have to rate them so parents can determine how much questionable content to allow our kids to view.
Part of the problem with this mindset is that too much information kills curiosity in teens. Adolescents, as we all know, often they believe they know everything already. Offering them every bit of adult life and understanding on a media platter adds to their belief that they dont need to learn anything more, and kills their curiosity about learning. More and more every year, I see teens becoming less and less curious about life and our culture. Part of this relates to the need for adults to model behavior that teens actually want to emulate. Historically, teens have always wanted to become like the adults around them, because those adults had all the (perceived) perks in life. And of course the adolescent mind loves to see just the funs parts of adult life without recognizing the deep responsibilities most of us pay for those rewarding moments and possessions.
A few years ago I came to see curiosity as a developmental aspect of adolescence, like puberty, search for identity, individuation, and egocentricity, to name a few. Developmental challenges, or stages, are those aspects we all go through in order to grow. Adolescence is the second greatest developmental growth spurt we humans go through, second only to birth-2 years old. Successful completion of the developmental stages helps ensure a youth will develop into a mature and responsible adult. Failure to grow through the developmental stages is just that: failure to grow. This often leads to those 45-year-old folks we know who act 14.
Important aspects of adult life such as procreation, birth control, parenting, relationships, creation, religion and so on were usually NOT offered to children or teens until they were involved in their initiation into adulthood. By withholding these critical pieces of adulthood, the teens were forced to join the adult club to access this information. Native cultures all over the world used this same process to keep youth curious, and to use that curiosity to lure them forward into growth. Keeping healthy secrets from children also prevented creating the teen we all fear: the one who knows everything!!
Modern kids are inundated with information. Indeed, this is called the Information Age. They acquire an understanding early in life of marriage and divorce, pre-marital sex, drugs, porn, politics and more. While these are not inherently negative topics, they are not important for young people to know and sadly we Americans do not model the best of each topic: America leads the world in divorce rate, incarceration, teen violence and a host of other dubious distinctions. 85% of all sex portrayed on TV is to unmarried couples, teaching that pre-marital sex is all right and that marriage is not sexy. How do I expect my daughter to wait until shes married when every book and movie she sees offers the opposite?
Back in the days of Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best and My Three Sons, kids did not have much inkling of how the adult world worked. Adult behavior was withheld from them and youth were safely naïve. If you think about much of teen behavior, it is an attempt to act as an adult. Teens today are in too much of a hurry to grow up, and we as a culture seem to believe that we should expose them to all aspects of adult life and expedite that growth. Were only teens for a few years and then adults for decades. We cant totally blame teens for knowing too much when we hand it to them on a platter. If youre tired of kids who know everything, keep em in the dark a bit longer; it wont kill them.