Caring and Careless

“What’s the big deal?” “It’s no biggie!” “Who Cares!”

Sound like something out of your teenager’s mouth? Then you’re not alone. If I had to describe today’s generation of young people in one sentence, I’d probably say something like this: “They care…but they don’t care.”

I gave my Twitter followers a morsel of this while I was working on my youth culture presentation for my parent workshop yesterday. I described today’s teenagers as caring, but careless. They are sensitive to causes, but desensitized to the lure of risky behaviors in their lives.

I Care
Today’s young people seem to want to make an impact more than any generation prior. I don’t mean any disrespect to past generations; it’s just that young people today are volunteering more than their parents and grandparents. Nearly three quarters of students (high school and college) have at least one cause they support or are involved with (Social Causes, YPulse.com, April 2011). Thriving businesses and volunteer organizations are beginning to recognize the value of Gen Y, a generation that is creative, tech savy… and who demands social responsibility.

Hollywood knows this to be true about this generation of young people… they’re banking on it, in fact. Giving back is “in.” (I guess that’s why they felt compelled to tell us that even these male strippers give back!)

I believe that Gen Y (and Z) make great volunteers and have potential to become fantastic student leaders. The only problem is, many of them have an attitude of…

Who Cares
As socially minded as young people are today, they are not worried about flirting with risky behaviors. It’s no surprise Gaga was their #1 role model last year. They care about the homeless, but they don’t seem to have a problem with marijuana, alcohol, and “hooking up” (3 Costly Risky Behaviors). They think they’re a superhero, impervious to consequences and any negative influences.

But couldn’t it be argued that they’re only modeling what they’ve been taught… by adults? Take MTV’s Video Music Awards last Thursday night. Host Kevin Hart joked about all the mistakes celebs have been making lately: Snookie’s pregnancy, Kristen Stewart having an affair… and Kevin’s conclusion? “If you make a mistake, so what!” And those words probably describe the actions of most of the celebrities that evening. So what. You only live once. Live for the moment. (Our annual recap of that MTV event here)

They’re caring… and careless.

What about you?
Do you see these attitudes and behaviors with young people as a whole?

What about church kids?

What risks do you find the most prevalent with the teenagers you are in contact with?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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2 Responses to Caring and Careless

  1. Alec & Lori Gray says:

    Very insightful Jonathan. You describe our kids as though you know them without meeting them . Thank you for all your Godly wisdom!
    Alec & Lori

  2. Tonya Berry says:

    We see the “Who cares” attitude a lot during youth group and church. They will NOT….I repeat NOT….participate in worship. They say they believe in God and love Him but when it comes time to worship they will sit there with their arms folded. Hand them a guitar and ask them to sing one of ‘their’ songs from the secular Top 40 and they’re all about it. All of a sudden everyone who couldn’t sing can sing, it just has to be written by somebody who bares half their body and sings about nasty stuff instead of worshiping Jesus.