Judging by the reaction of our readers to last week's column, teen-agers really do think differently than the rest of us. Here are some responses to our look at the teen-age mystique.
"[I'm] the father of one of those teen-agers who is prepared to spend hours sending E-mail messages to friends who live less than a block from our house rather than picking up the phone or visiting. The minds of today's teen-agers are wired differently from my generation, the baby boomers. I still read manuals when I get new software. My daughter just experiments, tries things, and if one thing doesn't work, she tries another. If she can't figure it out intuitively, she walks away and picks another application to use."
"Indeed I wonder (and both equally dread and hope) how my infant son will one day be explaining how he programmed the nanotechnology horde of grass-eating microbots to eat the top 17.6% of each blade of grass on my lawn instead of having to mow it himself."
"My son not only knew more about the colleges he considered, but he also knew more people that were going to them and to many others. Now in school, he gets 'instant' comparisons from his friends and acquaintances about similarities and differences between campuses in terms of both academics and social life. ... What is it going to be like for managers who have employees who compare their style with those of others, not just within a company, but far outside? What will it be like to recruit when your pool of applicants is very likely talking to one another?"
"Why would [teen-agers] type out E-mail messages on a postage-stamp-sized keypad rather than speak to the person across the aisle? Two reasons: Using the secret language of text messaging gives them a sense of belonging to a special group--marketers are all too familiar with this compulsion in teens. The second reason is often ignored: Teens want privacy. If they spoke aloud, your friend could listen in."
"They also want to do things differently than the rest of society (their elders) because it's an expression of their youth, their own newness. ... Anyone who takes the trouble to keep an open mind and avoid getting stuck in intransigent personal political positions can also participate. In a time of rapid technological and social change, this is often a good approach to life."
"Most important, they use their time to 'train': either receive 'training' from other teen-agers, or provide 'training' to other teen-agers. The transfer of knowledge is critical, and fun. Adults, probably busy with the above issues (pay bills, clean house, raise teen-agers), don't participate in 'training.'"
"We'll be able to understand today's generation if we practice uninhibited thought and reasoning. Wouldn't you think just like today's teen-agers if you didn't have those boundaries and obstacles like time and money that you understand so well now? Remember when Columbus said he was going to discover a new world when the earth was flat, or remember John Kennedy saying we were going to put a man on the moon? Were they just teen-agers, or uninhibited thinkers?"
"I occasionally ask my Boy Scouts about technology, and recently I asked them what game system is cool. ... I was amazed at how quickly they generated responses, including a complete analysis of the Xbox graphics chipset with improvement suggestions by one 13-year-old."
"These kids are mentally flexible in a way that's often difficult for older people to comprehend, but not for those of us with active imaginations and a strong will to live in the here and now--those of us who want to continue to create and produce."
"... an intense desire to succeed: this last one is the one us adults underestimate. We as grownups have lost the magic of that time. Do you remember the urgency and passion with which you wanted things when you were young? And the almost-magical 'rush' you received if you did manage to beg your way to it successfully? When you think of it, youth is filled with all sorts of passions that create drives the likes of which few adults ever experience."
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