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WHAT ARE TEENS THINKING? : GIVE US FREEDOM, SORT OF.

Byline: Glenn Gaslin and Eric Leach Daily News Staff Writers

Diona has a nose ring, and her father thinks it's weird.

Keith says his parents trust and respect him.

And Jon says he gets harassed by police, listens to music his parents hate but doesn't mind wearing a uniform to school.

Sound familiar? Sound like anyone you know?

It should.

These three Los Angeles youths echo ideas and lifestyles expressed in the 10th annual USA Weekend poll about teen-age freedom, an unscientific tally released this weekend that found America's youths frustrated with their liberties.

However, Los Angeles teens who participated through distribution of USA Weekend in the Sunday Daily News stood out among the pack of more than 200,000 survey respondents.

They have more restrictive and liberal ideas about clothing: They are more likely to approve of short skirts, eyebrow and tummy piercings, exposed navels and hats in public schools, but they support wider bans on clothes with gang symbols.

``There's a whole wave of restrictions going on,'' says Adam Sofen, 17, a self-described ``middle-class suburban white kid'' attending Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City. He and 70 percent of sixth- to 12th-grade students surveyed nationally say that adults spend too much time caging their world, their movement, their creativity.

``I think adults, especially boomers, they had a huge amount of freedom when they were teen-agers, and they can't conceive of us having the same situation,'' Sofen said. ``I think it's rather hypocritical of them.''

Yet, the survey suggests, most kids feel like they have it pretty good in many areas. They can listen to whatever music they want (87 percent nationally, 90 percent locally) and spend their own money on whatever they want (81 percent, nationally and locally) - even if Mom and Dad don't approve.

``My mom knows I listen to rap and cussing and violence and all that,'' says Eric Bower, 15, of Canoga Park. ``But she's OK. She just doesn't want to hear it.''

Diona Hughes, 15, of Los Angeles agrees with the results of the survey, especially the piercing bit. The Taft High School sophomore has a small gold nugget in her right nostril, and she says anyone should be able to have one, that school dress codes can't stop them.

``I think it's cool, but my dad says it looks nasty,'' she says, lifting up her sweat shirt a few inches, exposing more metal. ``He doesn't even know about the bellybutton ring!''

Her friend Tamika Peoples, 16, takes issue with Taft's (and most schools') ban on hats, perhaps the most outlawed fashion statement in the city.

``A girl can wear shorts all the way up her butt crack, but she can't wear a hat?'' asks Peoples. ``What is that?''

The survey data, culled from teens' responses to a mail-in questionnaire in the Nov. 1-3 edition of the nationally circulated newspaper insert, isn't hard enough to accurately define the typical teen in an area as diverse as Los Angeles, says Myron H. Dembo, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Southern California. But, he added, the results make sense.

``If adults are more liberal and experimental here, then the kids will be,'' said Dembo, who teaches adolescent development at USC. ``Kids basically have more freedom in urban settings.''

But some local teens say that life in Los Angeles has its drawbacks, particularly a curfew that keeps those under 18 off the streets after 10 p.m.

``It's awful,'' says Jon Stonerock, 16, a student at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. ``I've been picked up by the cops three times, and it's just harassment. It's always right after 10 o'clock, too.''

Like many L.A. teens who answered the survey, Stonerock blames his parents and the police for putting a crimp in his lifestyle. But he also voices another odd blip in the survey, saying he's all for school uniforms. Nationally, 83 percent of teens opposed uniforms, but only 76 percent of Los Angeles respondents were against the idea, perhaps because more local respondents attended private schools such as Notre Dame.

Stonerock's disdain and embrace of behavioral controls reflects another undercurrent of the survey: Teens desire authority - kind of.

Sure, they want to show off their own tastes in music and clothes. Sure, they oppose parental control of television and Internet exposure. But some teens recognize the need for restrictions, for a little social legislation. Even curfew.

``On weeknights, curfew's cool,'' says Jamaal Hawkins, 15, sitting on the steps at Taft, waiting for the bus back to Los Angeles. ``You gotta go to school, you gotta go home and you gotta do your work. By the time you're done, it's 11.''

And the key to maintaining your freedom is developing a relationship with those who can control it, says Taft football player Keith Johnson. He disagrees with the majority of those polled (54 percent nationally, 55 percent locally) who say parents should automatically respect their children. There's a reason for rules, he said, and freedom and respect must be earned.

``It all comes down to doing what you got to do, so you can do what you want to do,'' says Johnson, 18, who scored a sports scholarship to Oregon State University next year. ``My parents give me freedom because I've got my priorities straight. I worked hard in school and I showed my parents how hard it was to get that scholarship. They respect me for that.''

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, Chart

Photo: (1) Diona Hughes, 15, of Los Angeles says school dress codes can't stop body piercing.

(2) Taft High's Keith Johnson, 18, believes that freedom and respect must be earned.

(3) Jamaal Hawkins, 15, of Los Angeles says he has no problem with curfew on weeknights.

Myung J. Chun/Daily News

Chartt: THE YOUNG AND THE RESTRICTED
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 4, 1997
Words:967
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