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“They believe themselves deserving of things they don’t really deserve.” Most, including Beckman, lay the blame for that in large part on “helicopter” parents, who shower material gifts on their children, are increasingly prone to interfering in both school and sports (in the process shielding their children from the consequences of their actions) and who shy away from assigning chores at home or requiring teens to work at after-school jobs.At least some blame, however, also goes to coaches, who stopped awarding trophies for excellence and started awarding them for participation, and schools, who now build self-esteem lessons into the curriculum, as well as a media culture that tailors itself to teens’ every preference.“This generation is more satisfied with being advocates on social media than in the streets,” Bartlett explained, noting that many view “likes” on Facebook or re-tweets on Twitter as the equivalent of visits to soup kitchens.Similarly, just as social media gives teens the feeling of having advocated for change without working for change, it also gives them a sense of knowing more than they do.◗ It creates small, faith-sharing groups, where teens can learn to let themselves be known and where adults can more readily listen to the teens’ struggles and questions, witness to Christ through their actions and help teens identify their gifts and charisms.◗ It issues specific challenges relevant to teens’ lives, calling on them to stop watching pornography, avoid gossip, not cheat in school, be kind to those who others abuse, date chastely, dress modestly, give to the poor, support their parish and help their parents.“Teens want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and they think of themselves as being advocates for change,” said Christopher Bartlett, who has worked in youth ministry on both the diocesan and parish levels in Texas for 12 years.On the downside, however, their social activism isn’t all that active.

“We saw this with the Millennials and we’re seeing it even more with their successors,” Beckman explained.In part, he continued, that’s social media’s fault, which has made it easier for teens to protect themselves from messy, real world interactions, where rejection is more immediate and conflict has greater consequences.A larger chunk of responsibility, however, lies with the adults in the children’s lives, adults who have allowed teens to be plugged in almost since birth, put smart devices in their hands during elementary school and who don’t engage with them regularly in the home.As Protestant communities have learned, smart packaging and excellent facilities can help attract teens to youth events.But those details are the icing, not the essence of a successful youth ministry program.

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