Teenagers and their Peers

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As a teenager I had a few close friends, not many but some I knew I could rely on. Today my students appear to have tons of friends but I often have the feeling they know virtually nothing about them outside school and seldom seem to care.

Thus they spend ample time on their cell phones textmessaging their peers, even during lessons when I have to battle to make them put the wretched thing in their bags and often have to fight again so that it actually stays there. They always seem to have a wonderful piece of news to share with someone. Similarly if I look at their Facebook page they have hundreds of so-called friends.

Yet whenever a kid is absent from school, nobody seems to know what has happened to them. During the day nobody takes the time to send a message so as to find out. If I hand out photocopies, they very rarely ask one for the absent student. Even after a few days the kid’s absence is often still a mystery. It is almost as if by being absent the student no longer existed.

One incident last week made me wonder about the sort of relationship they have with each other. Once a week, I help and supervise a class where the students work in pairs on a common project for half the year. It was snowing outside and a few kids hadn’t made it to school. As usual I went round and took down the names of the kids who were not in school for the administration. One boy was on his own and when I asked him if the girl he was working with was absent because she lived in the country, he answered he had no idea. Another boy has been missing since the beginning of the month and the guy who works with him still hasn’t contacted him to ask whether and when he was coming back.

Maybe I am embellishing the past but I seem to remember that in similar circumstances we contacted each other, inquired about our friends’ health and informed them about school work.

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18 thoughts on “Teenagers and their Peers

  1. I can attest to the fact that my girls are on facebook quite a bit and text their friends to frequently. But they do seem to have close relationships, always know why so-and-so wasn’t in school, and if they don’t, call to find out. I think they feel very close to their friends.

    • You know I was wondering if it was my students or a general trend. I felt I had to blog about this because it saddedened, and I must admit also shocked, me a bit.
      I am glad to read your daugters have “friends” in a sense I can relate to.

  2. I don’t think this is unique to now. I had friends as a teen, but did I have close relationships? Not really.

    And I have friended some of my friends’ teenage daughters on Facebook – they seem to be closely connected to their friends.

    So it probably depends on whether they learn young how to have good, healthy relationships. Parents can set good examples. People can learn.

    I find even now, if I open up with some people, it doesn’t work too well. I’m cautious. Forming close relationships is an art.

    • Thank you for your more nuanced approach. I suppose that since we don’t get kids from all walks of life – the local Catholic school attracts a lot of kids from more middle-class families even if not all of them- I have a distorted view of French teenagers.

  3. It’s a sensitivity that has to be taught young. My children’s teachers make sure someone calls a child who was sick for more than a day. And my teens do get called by their friends when they miss school.

    • As a teacher I always tell my students at the begining of the year to make sure someone will call if they are sick and take their homework. But I guess that if it is not a habit they already have I cannot change this. Teenagers don’t find it “cool” to follow adults’ advice.

  4. Your view is not that distorted, Ilana-Davita.
    French teenagers are brought up by French parents. The average Frenchman/woman is very self-centred and friendship is ‘for better’, but not ‘for worse’.
    I know, I know, there are exceptions! Sadly enough not all that many, so how do you want those young people to know what friendship could/can/should be?

  5. I have to say, I’m not sure the assessment of the average French man’s/woman’s character as described by Deborah is necessarily correct. I have several French friends, both male and female, and none of them are self-centred at all….

    Anyway, I know what you mean about some teenagers today. However, I don’t think all of them are like that, most especially the children at my shul. Given that I was at another bar mitzvah yesterday, I can attest to the fact that some teenagers are caring, polite, friendly and not as shallow as the others.

    What was I like as a teenager in this respect? Well, I’m fairly certain that if someone was not at school for more than a day, one or other of us would find out why and take papers home for them, if needed. But that doesn’t mean all of my classmates were like that.

  6. Even in the younger grades, Israeli kids are taught that gibush (literally, solidification or consolidation – refers to esprit-de-corps or camaraderie) is VERY important. They learn this concept at school and in their youth groups, and it stays with them through the army and even at the workplace.

    As a result, I find that my kids are very close with their friends.

  7. I believe it is in how the parents bring the child up by their parents, extended family and other adults in their lives.

    When my children were absent (for good reasons), they had to call a classmate in order to get their homework. Also, as a parent, I called the school and gave the reason for the absence.

    I think that consideration is an extension of what we teach our children.

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