Teen Style: Hot Topic: Defining a ‘teen’
Steamboat Springs — As they focused on middle and high school students in Routt County who stand out for their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, the five-member staff of Teen Style asked itself: Are students their age stereotyped as an age group?
In a mid-November discussion, they talked about difficulty finding a part-time job, age-group stereotypes and what they think about when they hear the word “teen.”
Paula Ninger, 16, said she’s had trouble juggling her part-time job with a busy high school schedule. She said her limited availability might be a consideration in hiring.
“At my job, if I ask for a day off, I can’t really work at any other time. I’m just busy. I think they do take that into consideration,” Ninger said.
Zach Schmidt, 14, said it’s not hard to see why time limitations would come into play.
“It seems like it would be a huge problem for an employer to hire someone with a schedule that is pretty full already,” he said.
Kayla Stack, 15, said that consideration has more to do with business sense than it does age discrimination.
“It’s talking about the schedule. It’s not necessarily saying, ‘No, you’re a teen;’ it’s saying, ‘No, you don’t have the schedule,'” Stack said.
Most of the Teen Style staff members said they have not experienced discrimination for their age – but a few said they feel watched when they’re in department stores, and most said they can’t help but feel those signs in fitting rooms that warn against shoplifting are directed toward them.
“In malls, a lot of the stores are based for teens, and in dressing rooms they have a lot of those little signs,” said Emma Schmidt, 12.
It’s hard to get a job, and sometimes you might be suspected of stealing. Does this mean being labeled as a teenager is a handicap? Some Teen Style writers said yes.
“It’s almost demeaning,” Zach Schmidt said of the “teen” moniker. “It kind of carries a connotation that you’re unable to perform certain tasks or do certain jobs.”
The writers agreed that “teen,” like most words, comes with a variety of connotations – some are negative, some are positive, most are neutral. Ninger said the less shining of those connotations could be caused by a few actions.
“It’s the same as with other groups. If someone does something, it’s like, well, they’re all the same, so they all do that,” she said. “But I feel like not everyone is like that, and people are capable of doing more than shenanigans.”
So, if teenagers are sometimes mislabeled as hooligans, does the Teen Style staff think local teenagers do more for the community than they get credit for?
“Not really,” Emma Schmidt said. Ninger said it might be hard to motivate her peers to give back to the community, without some reward.
“People don’t really do it unless they have to, mostly. That’s pretty much how it is,” she said. “They feel like they don’t really get any benefit from it. You’re not going to get good grades from it.”
Life as a middle school or high school student in Steamboat Springs is busy, and the Teen Style writers said it’s hard to work in time to shatter any preconceived notions of their peers.
“I guess any complaint about unfair rights or discrimination, in the big picture, what we’ve got in any age group in this country is pretty good,” Stack said.
The Teen Style staff meets once a month to have a “Hot Topic” discussion. The group discusses the various angles of a question related to the month’s Teen Style theme. Unlike a standard editorial board meeting, the group does not attempt to reach a consensus opinion – the goal is to voice opinions as openly as possible.
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