- Since 2010, being a teen has turned into a gradually more online existence that has spawned an entirely new generation of activists, idols, and pressures.
- Along with unprecedented connectivity, teens have faced turbulent political environments alongside widespread violence and tragedy.
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Teens in 2010 were some of the first to be fully steeped in a digitally forward culture of reality television, Apple devices, and social networking. Ten years later, it seems that the hold of technology and popular culture has only gotten stronger.
As the decade winds down, influencers have replaced movie stars, parents can track their kid’s every move, and some of the most well-known political activists spurring international movements aren’t old enough to drink.
See how being a teen has changed over the past decade.
Memories aren’t captured on a digital camera, but taken and immediately shared on a smartphone.
The population of teens who owned smartphones skyrocketed through the decade, and the devices became critical to teenage life as social networks hosted most of the content teens were sharing with the world.
By 2018, 80% of teens got their first smartphone between the ages of 11 and 13 and spent as many as seven hours on the phone each day.
Burning CD mixes became a thing of the past as digital and streaming formats became the norm.
Digital streaming service Spotify exploded with regular users into the 2010s, gathering more than 230 million users by 2019 and effectively sealing the fate of CDs among teenagers.
Talking about mental health has become easier and more valued online and in school.
A cultural shift to embracing open conversations on mental health emerged through the 2010s, popping up in teens’ daily life in the form of memes on social media and efforts from high schools seeking to develop mental health education and support programs.
Partying continued to fall down the list of teens’ top priorities.
By the middle of the decade, some studies found that partying for teens had reached a record-low, with drinking and the use of illicit drugs having reportedly been replaced with staying in and watching Netflix.
School shootings are a bigger part of middle school, high school, and college reality.
Teenagers have increasingly faced national-scale violence and tragedy. Older teens grew up in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and mass shootings have seemingly increased in frequency since the turn of the 21st century, plaguing younger teens’ high school and college years with record-breaking violence.
Teenage activists became key figures in several high-profile movements that stirred action among their peers.
In the wake of violence’s bigger presence in teens’ worldview, high school and college-age teens have been notably involved in gun control awareness protests, sparking activist idols like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who survived a February 2018 massacre and flung themselves into leading a youth-powered gun-control movement.
As more Americans than ever believe that climate change is happening due to human activity, teens have pushed the changing tide of opinion and emerged as key figures in protests pushing back on lawmakers and demanding action on climate change.
Social media influencers eclipsed celebrities as voices of lifestyle authority.
Teens are drawn to platforms like YouTube and Instagram because they are free and play directly into their individual interests. As a result, teens’ dedication to the sites gave rise to influencers and content creators who are authorities in beauty, fashion, gaming, and a world of content on a scale that didn’t exist in any previous decade.
With the rise of influencers came a new teen dream of success and a glamorous and lucrative career path.
In July 2019, a survey found that 30% of kids ages 8 to 12 chose vlogger/YouTuber as their ideal career, but some social media stars have since spoken out about the unique pressures and troubles that come with the non-traditional career.
The pressure on teenagers’ online personas kept growing
As social media use grew throughout the decade across all ages and demographics, teens are among the most frequent users, posting huge amounts of photos and information to document their lives and show off a curated sense of self to the world.
However, different metrics unique to social platforms present a stressor for teens who feel pressured to keep up “streaks” of photo dialogues on Snapchat, or hit a certain amount of followers and likes on Instagram.
Parents have more ways, and more reasons, than ever to keep a firm grip on what their kids are doing.
Technology that has become ubiquitous changed the lives of both teens and parents, with customisable features on computers and smartphones that can limit screen time or apps like Life360. The surveillance app that can track a teen’s location and activities has 18 million monthly users by the end of 2018.
What hasn’t changed is teenagers’ willingness to skirt these tools that many find overly restrictive, even to the point of spawning Tik Tok memes for teens to share hacks that disable the apps.
A new struggle for the teens that are leaving for college and turning into adults comes in the form of breaking the technology ties, which the Washington Post reported is a nearly unprecedented source of strife between worried parents and frustrated kids.
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