Teen Rights: is there such a thing?
This is the first in a short series of articles intended to address the rights of teens, whether they should have them, and exactly what that means to the youth as well as the community.
In late July 2009, several teens were involved in car accidents resulting in their deaths on Western New York roadways. A flurry of discussions took place shortly after these incidents, further prompting New York State to consider additional laws regarding teen driving. New York State currently has laws against talking on cell phones without the use of hands-free devices. Now they are considering texting while driving legislation as well as laws that will dictate who can be in the automobile with a teen driver. Proposed legislation will limit the number of additional teens that can be in a vehicle with a teen driver when adult supervision is not present. The question is whether this legislation is necessary or whether it should be left to individual families to determine the rules for their children. However, the topic of teen rights runs even deeper than the driving laws. Perhaps the focus should be on how we determine when the teen years are and how we decide as family and community exactly what our children are capable of and at what age.
Coming of Age. When is a child a child, and what comes after childhood? The teen years are to some extent artificially determined. The teen years are when we affix the word "teen" to a child's age but is that really the marker between childhood and adulthood, if there is such a thing? Our modern society has very few, if any, opportunities to mark or celebrate coming of age for our children. Instead, our children look forward to the time when they will have certain adult rights and freedoms such as drinking, smoking, driving, voting, marriage, joining the military, having babies, and moving into their own place. But how are these ages determined in our society? Certainly not all children wait until the ages we have established to experience these rights of adulthood. And therein lies the problem.
In the next few articles of this series on Teen Rights, we will look at these various coming of age issues. We will hear from parents, teens, and public officials.