Teens today feel squeezed by all sides

Iola, Kansas

Recent data show teenagers now are more stressed, depressed, and anxious than at almost any point in recent history.

For many adults, hearing this probably provokes concern and bewilderment: what’s wrong with today’s teens?

I can almost imagine teachers muttering to themselves: what could they possibly have to complain about?

But life for today’s teens is quite different than for previous generations, and the challenges many of us face are indeed quite daunting.

When asked what had her feeling down one of my friends answered, “I don’t know, maybe because I’m probably going to have to sell my kidneys in order to pay for college, I’ll work until the day I die, and old people hate everything we do.”

Sounds harsh, right?

But before you write her off as just another angst-filled, hyperbolic teen, let’s dive deeper into these musings.

It might be even help adults uncover how to be a part of the solution and understand adolescents altogether.

“I’m probably going to have to sell my kidneys in order to pay for college.”

Kids today are overwhelmed by how much it costs to go to college. Student debt in the U.S. is a whopping $1.5 trillion.

Break that down, and the average college graduate leaves with a diploma in one hand and an IOU of $37,172 in the other.

It didn’t used to be that way. In 1988, when my mom graduated college, KU cost $1,325 a year. Now, it’s over $10,000.

Some studies show that low- and moderate-income students are able to afford fewer than 5 percent of colleges. And even though we know that a college degree is a ticket to the middle class, the student loan debt crisis is a gray cloud in the distance for young adults.

“I’ll work to the day I die”

Programs like Medicare and Social Security are not guaranteed to be around for my generation.

Unless we have real entitlement reform, both programs are predicted to run out by 2034. They simply aren’t things young adults can depend on in the future.

We understand we’ll contribute to baby boomers’ retirement plans but will likely be on our own when we hit retirement age.

And with many Americans scared or unable to own a home because of the Great Recession, many of my peers wonder if we’ll ever be able to retire like our grandparents have done.

“Old people hate everything we do”

With Gen Z-ers constantly called the “snowflake generation,” my peers and I feel less than accepted by society.

Teenagers now are accustomed to things many parents still can’t understand. We’ve never known life without the Internet.

Our generation is more tolerant and more diverse than our predecessors, too. Yet time and time again, our challenges to the status quo makes us snowflakes. I hate to point this out, but who exactly seems to be more sensitive to change?

The point isn’t that adults agree with teenagers or our complaints. But it is important to hear us out and look for solutions to these problems instead of looking for reasons to blame.

I think we can all agree that we all want to provide the best for our future generations. Let’s start now.

Allie Utley is currently in 11th grade and is a communications intern for Thrive Allen County. She writes a bi-weekly column focused on issues that matter to young people.

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