As teens enter their high school education this final phase of adolescent discovery is filled with a set of peer challenges. Today there’s a heighten level of peer taunts called teen shaming.
As an adult looking back, this phase consisted of anxieties as we entered this secluded circle. The ground rules were based on fitting into a particular lifestyle, consisting of a secret but intelligent agenda. What you wore, how you look and who you befriend takes on extreme significance, so much so, that for some it becomes a matter of life or death.
The advent of technology in high school education brings another dimension, cyber bullying, that reaches further into the psyche of our children with the ability to influence and persuade them into actions without question to the consequences. Parents are bewildered and fail to understand the existence of teen shaming among peer groups. For teens these peer groups are an honor, not taken likely and a shame so forceful it has been known to drive teens over the edge, unable to cope, they surrender to it.
The exact cause of teen shaming is still unknown. Professionals believe it may be related to human development, unseen medical conditions, or simply a new approach to old fashion torment. The need to fit in is a fundamental part of growing up. For some teens the yearning of self-identity is found on the pages of social media, where expected behaviors are created through the perceptions of others. For others it may be as simply as a poor diet or lack of healthcare that subjects our teens to react hurtfully. Can it be as simple to cure or prevent our teens from being ridiculed or subjected to unacceptable behaviors? Is there a miracle cure or is it merely in how high school education perceives our teens should be treated?
High school education is a time of dual morality making it difficult to identify right from wrong between parental expectations and peer group observation. Life changes, discoveries and demands become emotional arguments for both our teens and their parents. Today teen shaming has the ability to contest parental authorities and community beliefs, which were introduced during early childhood. In some cases, our teens are enforcing their own beliefs, determined to take a stand.
Teen shame encompasses how our teens see themselves, as well as, how they believe they are seen by peers and authorities. In almost all cases, peer influences win over family. The quest for teen independence can be so overwhelming, and outcomes can be either positive or negative. Instigating parental and peer challenges, testing allowable limits set by authorities, and threatening followers in the peer group to sustain or face consequences are only part of the problem. Authorities are equally guilty of imposing teen shame, using it as a method of correction or control. The results are a double edged sword, and for some there is an instinctive reaction to confront, while others chose to ignore. Both reactions can be explosive and damaging to the teen, as well as, the parent or authority.
Going through the years of high school education can be stressful and as individuals our breaking points are as different as night and day. Our peer groups and our families know better than anyone, where our vulnerabilities exist. It’s nature at its worst when teens tease, or bully each other for being different. The same can be said of parents or authorities shaming teens through verbal or written statements. Placing your own shortcomings onto a teen’s shoulder to resolve can become unbearable and when do we cross the border of being destructive versus constructive?