The Priveleges of "Adulthood"

( This is my son, with his newly acquired car, which he bought with his own money, before he goes to work at his new job at Hot Topic. Yeah, I'm a proud mom. )

My oldest son is 16 years old. He is now experiencing some of the perks that come with age, namely the ability to drive a car solo, the ability to work for pay in a place he likes, and the ability to have an independent checking account. He is ready for the independence and responsibility these things entail, and I am so happy for him. These things allow him even more freedom and self-determination than he had previously.

I have to admit, I was eager for my son to be able to do these things, because as I stated, he was ready. Unfortunately, there are many things that teenagers today are ready and able to do, but which they are denied access to merely because of their age. Psychologist Robert Epstein, who wrote "The Case Against Adolescence", stated the following in a recent interview:

In recent surveys I've found that American teens are subjected to more than 10 times as many restrictions as mainstream adults, twice as many restrictions as active-duty U.S. Marines, and even twice as many as incarcerated felons. Psychologist Diane Dumas and I also found a correlation between infantilization and psychological dysfunction. The more young people are infantilized, the more psychopathology they show.
What's more, since 1960, restrictions on teens have been accelerating. Young people are restricted in ways no adult would be—for example, in some states they are prohibited from entering tanning salons or getting tattoos.

On the last page of the article, there is a summary list of all the restrictions that have been placed on adolescents, beginning around the time of compulsory education in the 1850's. Today, my friend just told me of another one I wasn't aware of. Apparently, you need to be 21 years old to reserve a hotel room. If my friend wanted to reserve the room for her 18year old daughter, she would have to present ID when checking into the room! What about the 18 year olds that live and work independently? I guess it is just assumed that all 18 year olds are not responsible enough to be in such a position!

I believe that in order for teenagers to transition gracefully into adulthood, they need to be allowed to attempt and practice many of the skills they need before they actually become "adults". It is ludicrous to believe that magically at 21 years of age, people become competent enough for anything in particular. Unnecessarily limiting teenagers' access to activities, and then providing unlimited freedom all at age 21 is foolish at best and harmful at the worst. I think our society has seen enough of the worst effects. It's time to give people (teenagers) the benefit of our trust in their competency, and allow them the freedom to LIVE the life those of us over age 21 are guaranteed in the constitution. We will all reap the rewards.


Snavleys said...

You can't buy certain cold medicines until you are 21 also! So how do you get relief from a dang cold when you are living on your own at 18, 19, or 20?

Deanne said...

Wow, that's another one I didn't know about! Crazy! >:(