Swamp Water Jurisprudence: Youngsters who don’t listen to us oldsters


by Judge Dennis Challeen

The other morning I drove by a group of students who were waiting for the school bus. There were five of them in a circle; I assumed they were chatting with each other, but my impression was wrong. They were all using their iPhones (a smartphone made by Apple that combines an iPod, a tablet computer, a digital camera, and a cellular phone) to communicate with others not in the group; the others might be elsewhere within our city or throughout the state, perhaps other states — or even a foreign country.

I thought of how vastly different my youth was. If I wanted to talk to my friend a couple miles away I would crank on our party line phone (two long and two short). If he answered, the conversation would be when we will meet and what will we do; quick to the point, hang up and out the door. If I had asked my folks if they would buy me a telephone for my room, I’d  have been met with an incredulous stare that silently conveyed: Are you out of your mind?

Times have changed.

The iGen are children born in the 17 years between 1995 and 2012. They have never lived in a world without Internet and iPhones, so are thus named the iGeneration. They are now about one-quarter of our U.S. population.

A book, “iGen,” by psychologist Jean M. Twenge, reveals research on this new latest generation:

“They seem to constantly be communicating … electronically that is, but not face-to-face. They spend an average of six hours a day using these new media. They date less and don’t hang out with their friends with face-to-face, in-person interactions, as often as previous generations.”

One would think they’d get exhausted, constantly texting about mundane events in their limited, inexperienced, boring lives — but they don’t. They rarely read printed words in the form of books, newspapers, or magazines, and are less informed about current events. However, the texting and wasting time online does crowd out many watching hours of TV and commercials, which may be a plus over preceding generations. Their study habits and academic skills are behind the millennials who preceded them. There also seems to be an increase in teenagers being depressed, and suicide rates have increased since 2011. Because they grew up with crazy people invading and shooting innocent school children, and hearing about other scary, senseless crimes, they crave and seek out places they feel are safe.

Most of us older folk couldn’t wait to enter the adult world with its privileges and responsibilities; not so with this generation. They have maturity fears and refer to responsible behavior as “adulting.”

So why have parents allowed these young people to acquire and become addicted to these electronic media devices? Probably because they’re new and appeared to be harmless, and even if that’s true, taking away something as inbred as iPhones when “everyone else has one,” would be a monumental task for any parent. However, there have been some positive effects: lower rates of teenage pregnancy and underage drinking, and fewer teenage motor-vehicle accidents — although texting when driving is a new hazard yet to be solved.

Every generation wants to be different and is subject to newer, so-called modern inventions. I recall as a teenager working all summer and saving my wages to buy a used 1932 Chevrolet without my parents’ permission. That set off a family crisis. High school students were not allowed to bring cars to school so we defiantly parked them elsewhere. After graduation I sold the car and used the proceeds for college tuition. It all turned out for the better, but after I became a parent I could see my parents’ concern.

Throughout history, older generations have been consistently critical of the latest generation and their obnoxious behavior.

A member of the British House of Commons in 1843 said about the youth of that day:

“A fearful multitude of untutored savages ... [boys] with dogs at their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits ... [girls who] drive coal-carts, ride astride upon horses, drink, swear, fight, smoke, whistle, and care for nobody ... the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.”

Over 2,400 years ago Socrates complained to Plato:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

And so too this generation will pass — always has, always will — and they will become adults who are equally critical of the next rebellious generation to follow them.


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