The Weird World of 21st Century Teenagers
By Lynne Bromley

      I give you fair warning.  Teenagers like Messengers.  Yahoo Messenger, Windows, MSN, AIM, and always, of course, the latest version.  Preferably the not-completely-tested-yet, full-of-bugs one.  With stranger noises and sillier emoticons than the one before. 

      In many ways, Messengers are good for parents as well.  Your kids can talk for hours to their friends without you having to invite them over, or pay the phone bill, or stump up for more mobile phone top-ups.  They're not standing about with the front door open, letting the heat out, or loitering about on corners. The quality of conversation is not good to adult ears, though.  I can understand why so many teenagers get computers in their bedrooms at this stage, because three solid hours of "why Joseph dumped Kelly" is more than your average parent can take. 

      If it's not Joseph and Kelly, it's the grunting and the long moody silences.  Grunting and moodiness are important, especially if you haven't seen the person you're grumpy with since... oh, about an hour and a half ago, when you said farewell at the bus stop. 

      Most of what's said on Messengers is Private and Confidential.  When your teen hits the Messenger stage, you can start to feel like an interloper in your own home.  Expect some battles about privacy.  If you're really concerned, desperate (or just plain nosey) chat logs are your friend!

      When I was a teenager, we all had CB radios and had to think of "handles" for ourselves.  The trick was to find something that made you sound mysterious, yet not too pretentious.  Lots of people downright lied.  "Lovely Lady" and "Sex Machine" spring to mind.  My dad thought the CB was silly, with all those daft names, AND it interfered with the telly.  With Messenger, things have moved on again.  It is no longer enough to be called Fluffy or MeanMachine.  Now you have to go for the bizarre or the deeply depressing, or include lots of unnecessary symbols.  Recent examples spotted on this computer include:


      don't know what to tell ya : )

      I'm a Rockstar Boyfriend, somebody snap me up!!  (Good to see people still lie!!)

      keep the pictures they never change only the people in them do

      !<<like the dinosaurs some day (name deleted to protect the innocent) will become extinct>>!

      Because teenagers like to save their energy for grunting, they like the Messenger Automatic Sign-in.  Just connect to the net, and hello, you're there, none of that faffing about with the password.  Which is fine, but as a parent I find it quite distressing to get online and have Stop The World I Want To Get Off! 8=( ask me how many paracetamol would be needed to end this dismal existence.

      At this point you have to decide whether to admit you're really There's Accidents And There's Just Plain Stupidís mum, or quickly and quietly sign off and pretend you didn't notice. 

      You should also be aware that Messengers are like trainers.  They go out of fashion quickly.  You spend weeks learning user names and how to turn off the sound effects, only to be informed that "Nobody goes on Yahoo anymore, Yahoo's crap.  I've downloaded SuperMegaExtraGroovy 6."  You can argue, you can sulk, but you might as well just go with the flow and learn how SMEG 6 works.

      What does the future hold?  Will I walk into the room to find that eight holographic teenagers have beamed down my phone line and are steadily munching through the contents of my fridge?  Will I log on one day and find myself talking to a fourteen year old alien from the planet Snaaarg who wants to know what the chemistry homework was?  Will webcam technology improve so that I actually know what my daughter's friends look like, rather than them just being wobbly blobs?  Who knows?  This, my dear friends, is the weird world of the modern teenager.  At least it doesn't interfere with the telly.



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