I recently saw a post on Imgur that made me raise my eyebrows so much they interfered with the ceiling fan. Yes, I'm one of those people. I'm a recent conversion to Imgurianism.
Ahem, anyway. So, the post was a screen capture of a Facebook post that went something like this (I didn't bother to save this one):
"11 year olds today: OMG I love to get drunk and high everyday. YOLO lol!"
11 years when I was 11: Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon!"
Now, hold on, this isn't a rant. I have an actual story and a point to make here. In fact, this is quite a personal journal and I might be making a huge mistake by talking about this stuff here.
One of the worst things when you're eleven or so is how narrow in scope your life experiences generally are. Your parents control almost everything you do, and if they don't, the simple fact you have no decent transport, money or respect from adults does. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, to be honest: many kids are very sheltered, but there are things in life they don't want or need to be exposed to. There are people, yes, other kids even, they do not want to be around.
An entirely different world they don't want to be anywhere near, even if they think they do. Of course, the problem is that parents tend to not know what they're doing either, and they get overly restrictive with their kids. But that's another matter.
Before I continue, let me just state that by far most of the time when kids talk about drugs, sex or alcohol... they are talking trash. They want to either seem cool to their friends, or make a connection with an adult by appearing more "mature" (this really irks me).
Like the thirteen year old girls who post jokes on their Twitter and Facebook about being "ready for Las Vegas/vacation lol" and posting images of loads of condoms - which are probably their mom's. They're not really going out there and planning on using 50 condoms. They're probably virgins and will remain that way. It's okay, they're just talking shit. Hell, even if they weren't, shit, where are your priorities? At least they're implying they know the importance of practicing safe sex.
Kids aren't taking drugs or alcohol or having sex earlier; the opposite is true. What's happening is that their inappropriate jokes and actions are either shoved in your face online, or you're taking their jokes/bluster at face value, or you're looking at kids from a specific demographic that is now and has always been a little messed up.
If you know any kids, you know this is true.
I recently had two separate kids claim to "really love" low-class, cheap Australian beer (Emu Export and Toohey's Extra Dry, to be specific) and "aww, it's just the best shit, hey?"
One of these kids was nine. Jeez, what's going on?! We have nine year olds getting into drinking cheap hobo-beer and being total alcoholics before the age of... Oh, it appears they'd just been given sips of this crap by their grandparents and because it's the only alcoholic beverage they know/have tasted, they're trying to appear more "mature" by claiming to like it. Duh.
One of them went on to admit to me that he is afraid of getting drunk, doesn't want to risk trying booze while he's so young and while it's illegal for him, and he basically views it as an adult-only thing. He wasn't saying this to impress me, it was a heartfelt talk.
This kid also swears no more or less than I did at his age, and in fact is woefully ignorant about anything sexual - his irresponsible, shitty school forwent any sex-ed, so he's bewildered about anything and everything aside from:
1. How to efficiently employ his right hand.
2. What he finds attractive.
These things being, you know, instinctive.
Despite that, I've heard him bluster about having had sex before. No. Way. Don't make me laugh. He doesn't even know how, or what it looks like.
He's a polite, friendly, helpful and exceedingly generous kid despite being poor as hell - he comes from a neighborhood where everyone drinks, some of his friends are friggin' ex-criminals (this is insane, btw), and so on, so forth - and in spite of it all, he's a good kid with no bad habits at all, aside from being messy as hell. He sometimes says some rude stuff to his parent, but he doesn't really mean it. I still do that, actually.
But, if they're not all shagging each other wild, or getting blotto on cheap piss they stole from the local bottle shop while assaulting old pensioners... what are our children/teens doing? What do they talk about?
Well... one kid I know has a wicked sweeping setup. He really knows how to use/build his Dragonite, which was a big surprise. He's not a big fan of the show, because it's a little silly, but hey. Another one really likes Modern Warfare, but he really prefers going outside and swimming, bike riding, so on. Oh, and-
... What, you didn't know? Yes, Pokemon is still big today. So is Star Wars. Not to mention Disney. Physical activity is still the number one thing. Going outside. Hmm. Actually, not a lot has really changed from when I was a kid. Even their TV shows aren't all that bad.
Most of this bullshit about sex and drugs is just bluster, and whenever it's not... uh, yeah, there has always been a social demographic of shittiness wherein kids were "growing up" far too fast - as if irresponsible sex and drug abuse have anything to do with growing up too fast... more to do with growing up wrong.
I.E., the problem isn't the kids, it's the parents.
If you buy into this crap (note: statistically, nowadays youths indulge in less crime and less risk-taking behavior in the US and Australia; this is a fact), you're either taking the puerile jokes/bluster (which you see more often now, thanks to the internet) at face-value, or you're looking at just one single demographic. Your scope is limited - as it was when you were a kid. You only saw the nice neighborhood, the good, responsible friends you had, and so on. Nowadays, you're seeing so much more, with the media so desperate to put the spotlight on negative news regarding youths that it's impossible to escape.
Now... look. Recently, an insane thing happened to me.
I don't even know how to begin, or even if I should on this site. I think I'll brush aside the details for now and just tell the story.
Long story short, I ran into a kid I know. His mother smokes, and his neighbors/family drink like fish, so he's constantly exposed to this self destructive shit. He had been cajoled by someone into trying cigarettes. He's far too young, not even twelve yet.
He had a few with him. Cigarettes, that is. Stole them from his mother. But that's not all. I was there when I saw him with two teenagers who were honestly great guys, but they were smoking pot. I see not much has changed in the last ten years - they had a little smoking spot, a hideout, in a public park. Guh. Original.
And this kid was hanging out with them. Somewhat freaked out, I realized I needed to hang around, because I felt obligated to make sure the younger kid didn't do anything foolish, or get hurt by the older folks. Thankfully, nobody minded; I'm a pretty cool grownup, apparently.
First of all, I begged the kid to not try weed that day. To put it off until he was a little older, at least. The teenagers, again, great guys, offered me some but I turned them down. I made it clear that I didn't want to, didn't like to, and wouldn't ever touch it in front of a young person. A moment later, the kid said he wasn't interested.
I was absolutely overjoyed, albeit silently. We chatted for a bit, and eventually I learned that the younger kid was planning on smoking these cigarettes.
I didn't threaten. I didn't lie. I didn't pressure, bully or physically touch him. I just told him the truth about cigarettes, and why he shouldn't light up - he had a lighter and everything, and by all rights this eleven year old could have done it. If not right in front of me, then whenever he got the next chance. The teens also helped. Doing anything else, such as trying to physically stop him from doing it, would have been very counterproductive. All I could do was believe in this kid's ability to make the right decision, and my own persuasiveness - and how much he respected me and my beliefs on him smoking.
I have never been so proud (of myself and him) and respectful, not to say happy, when he, of his own volition, plucked out the cigs, tore them to pieces and threw them to the floor. "Yeah, I'm not gonna touch this shit."
So, I prevented a kid from smoking both cigarettes and marijuana in one day, and hopefully turned him off touching them at any point in the near future, despite the fact he came from a low-class, substance-abuse filled neighborhood/family. His good sense and a little leading by example counteracted this unusual situation that, frankly, most kids don't find themselves in until they're quite a bit older.
When I got the chance, I had a long, proper talk about this stuff with him. This kid is an excellent person, and despite it all, he also has good sense. I'm sure if he ever does try this stuff, he'll merely experiment with it, then come to the correct decisions. As many, many of us have.
Even when I was a teenager, and we'd skip class for a cone or two, most of my friends just abstained from it. Those of us who didn't were actually quite responsible - that's one of the funniest things. We really were. Alcohol is far worse for youngsters to be playing with in the dark; my teenage hangovers still haunt my darkest nightmares... not to mention nearly losing a friend of mine.
Oh yeah, I have no compunctions about confessing my youthful misadventures. Especially given the only negative side effect they had was the aforementioned hangovers. But make no mistake.
I argue in favor of the legalization of marijuana, and the lowering of the drinking age (and for parents to educate their kids about responsible drinking and sex), but I don't give a damn about any of this anymore. I won't benefit from the decriminalization of this stuff. So much for it all being about self-interest and wanting to be able to get legally wasted.
Ah well. At any rate, let's just get that cleared up. Okay? When you see some kid jabbering about "YOLO I SMOKE TEH WEED EVERYDAY, MAN!", don't automatically assume that he or she isn't talking bullshit, or that whatever ultra-negative view you have of youths today actually applies to the majority of them.
Heck, one thing many people suggest telling your kids is that, despite how it might seem or the "schoolyard" gossip, actually only a tiny percentage of people their age regularly indulge in drugs, sex or alcohol.
Ultimately though, we're fine. People will be fine. We all grow up, we all learn from our mistakes. Don't presume that someone who tried a drug now and then as a kid is going to ruin their life - not if they've been raised well they won't. Not if they have proper parenting, mentoring and guidance. Or, for that matter, comprehensive education.
Have a little faith. Or, you know, try to make a difference. Or is it just easier to complain about shit? Hm?
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