Lawrence Journal-World, Thad Allender/AP

Summer Spells Trouble for Teens

July 06, 2009 12:00 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
In summer, experts say, teens often engage in high-risk activities due to a lack of structure and supervision. In a recession, shrinking opportunities may exacerbate these risks.

Fewer Jobs Equals More Idle Time for Teens

Youths across the nation may have more spare time than usual this summer, as the tight economy is making it more difficult for them to secure jobs. According to Forbes magazine, “[T]he unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds who want work is 24%--the worst since 1965.”  African American teens fare even worse with a 38 percent unemployment rate.

In June there were 5.6 million jobs for teen, compared with July of 1999 when 8.8 million teenagers found jobs, reported Forbes.

Summer is typically a dangerous time for teens, as more driving leads to more traffic accidents, and a glut of free time often leads to more dangerous behavior.

In 2008, Newsday reported on a spate of crimes in the New York area involving teens. In one weekend alone, one teenager was shot to death, an 18-year-old was hit by a car, and a teenage girl died at a party. “With school ending, students ease into the lazy-hazy rhythms of summer. But it’s also a time of heightened danger that can end in the glaring lights of hospital emergency rooms—or worse.”

Experts are warning parents that bored youth, especially recent high school graduates anxious about pending adulthood, may turn to alcohol, drugs and other risky behaviors because often spent outdoors.

“The risks for youth are really things like idleness, lack of supervision, lack of meaningful activities that they engage in,” Ben Saunders of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center in South Carolina told Newsday.

That said, it’s important to maintain a balanced parenting style. Hara Estroff Morano, the author of a new book called “A Nation of Wimps,” says that perpetually hovering, overprotective “helicopter” parents may be partially to blame for misbehavior.

Child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University, agreed, “Kids need to feel badly sometimes.” He told Psychology Today, “ We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

Background: Teens struggle to find work

Why is it more difficult for teens to find jobs? Geoffrey Rockett, associate director at the Metro North Regional Employment Board told the Boston Globe, "As the economy slows down, teens may be competing against adults.” The question boils down to experience.

Some critics argue that the teenagers that do find jobs, are the ones who are the most financially stable.  “Summer is a time when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University told the Houston Chronicle.

Fairchild explained that teenagers from more affluent families often have better connections and therefore stronger chances of procuring summer jobs.

Related Topics: Teens and the Internet

Kids who are spending their summers on the Internet face additional dangers; everything from cyberbullying to the latest trend of teens swapping nude photographs. Huffington Post writer Stephen Balkam explains, "What may start as a bit of banter at school or day camp, can quickly take on a life of its own through instant messages, postings on a kid's social networking profile, e-mails, text messages and videos sent to hundreds of others in an instant."

Opinion & Analysis: Helicopter parenting

A review of various studies conducted by the Harvard Family Research Project refutes the perception that helicopter parents are harmful and concludes that a high level of parental involvement often correlates with a positive college experience, according to the College Board.

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