By Kim Duke

I don’t know about the rest of you, but what I would give to go “back to normal.” For all the complaining we do about work, family and our busy routines, I think it’s safe to say we now have a whole new perspective on so many things. We have also been given the time to truly reflect on our priorities. Most of us can use this time to clean out closets, garages, cupboards, etc.

But there are some of us who struggle to find a routine in this new normal. I see it in my teenage son. He has become totally and utterly lazy. He functions only to wake up, eat, look at his phone and offer 100 reasons why he shouldn’t or won’t do what I ask him to do.

This week I decided we needed to make a daily schedule of three things to get done per day. One thing needed to be a physical activity, another needed to be educational and another needed to be something that helps me or himself or the environment, like clean the inside of his car, rack the leaves or pick up trash. Even this he balked at, groaning like I was making him do so much work? This kid thinks he is going to college next year and has what it takes to be a collegiate football player? Yet, completing three things a day seems like a daunting task.  

This brings me to this generation of teenagers: Generation Z, people born from 1997 to about 2015. According to Wikipedia, Gen Z is described to have used digital technology since a young age and are comfortable with the internet and social media, but most are not necessarily digitally literate.

Digitally literate refers to an individual’s ability to find, evaluate and compose clear information through writing and other media on various digital platforms. Digital literacy is evaluated by an individual’s grammar, composition, typing skills and ability to produce text, images, audio and designs using technology. Digital literacy is built on the expanding role of social science research in the field of literacy as well as on concepts of visual literacy, computer literacy and information literacy. 

Does that sound like your teenager? Because my teenager is only literate in sending short texts. What I am seeing and have been seeing for quite some time is that many in this generation feel entitled. I also see that a vast majority no longer “respects” their parents or elders. They know it all, they can’t be bothered, they don’t want to do anything that they feel is unnecessary or too much work.

After researching the effects of technology on our children’s brains, I could easily blame this, but the problem is deeper than technology. It involves our family units, which are often fractured. It involves the work ethic we have begun to tolerate as parents due to our own busy schedules and exhaustion. It derives from so many different pieces that fixing it seems unlikely.  

So, what do we do now? We take advantage of the time we have been given as a community, state and nation. Right now, we are worried and unsure but, most of us are home. We need to direct this generation to stop being so uninterested and create opportunities for them to see what is truly happening in our world. How we could lose an entire generation of wonderful, worldly and knowledgeable people to a virus they may not get, but certainly could spread.

That taking anything for granted is such a waste of time and energy. We don’t need to homeschool this group, what we need to do is put them in a position to change their world and to become the best version of themselves as they can be. This begins by teaching them to be selfless and caring. Whether this means helping to clean up the environment or delivering meals to those who cannot get out or calling their grandparents versus texting them?!

I am clearly not an expert in any of this — and, of course, this article is basically a commentary. I do want to stipulate that not all Gen Zs fall under the pretext of my observations and my son’s behavior/lack of interests. However, if you are experiencing what I am, do not tolerate it. We have been given a real opportunity here. Let’s educate, demand and insist until we can break these kids away from their phones and they see what reality truly looks like.  

Good luck to all parents out there. May you find tolerance when you think there is none and perseverance when you think all is lost. We are in this together and we will get through this.