Responsibilities control teenagers’ lives


Emily Oba

Art by Dzung Nguyen

When people hear the word teenager they might think of high school clichés such as nerd, geek and jock, or maybe it is just an adolescent with a rebellious attitude. Whatever comes to mind, responsible is usually not at the top of the list. The amount of responsibility a teenager has can  vary from person to person but that doesn’t mean that high school students are not responsible.  

High schoolers are close to reaching adulthood, and although their responsibilities are not the same as adults, they still bear the same weight.

According to a study published in the journal Child Development, the eldest child will conform more than their siblings. It is thought that because eldest children want to please parents, that they are the most responsible out of their siblings. As the eldest of her family, senior Jordan Banker has always had a sense of authority over her siblings. She takes care of two younger sisters who also go to RBHS, junior Morgan and freshman Logan, by driving them to school. This might seem like a simple task, but when one of the siblings wakes up late or it’s just a slow morning, it can be difficult to get out of the house on time.

“I have to make sure we don’t leave anyone when we leave for school because we’ve done that almost before, so now it’s kind of my job to make sure Logan gets in the car with us,” Banker said. “Then it’s usually my responsibility to get some sort of snack or dinner if that’s not already going when we get home.”

If younger siblings don’t need to be taken care of, and instead sports is a priority, high schoolers need to have good time management skills to balance their life of sport and school. Sophomore soccer player Allie Pigg believes in order to succeed people have to take control and responsibility for themselves.

“My daily responsibilities include crazy amounts of school work, staying in shape for soccer because it’s the offseason and getting myself to and from places because I can drive. My parents have their own responsibilities,” Pigg said. “I have these responsibilities because I’m extremely invested in my school work, as I believe that my quality of work will decide how much of what I learn will be retained. My sports responsibilities are because I care about keeping myself healthy and staying in shape allows me to enjoy the sport I play.”

Even if some believe that today’s teens are too infatuated by their technology, they are still accountable. How many obligations a student should take on depends on each individual. Principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad thinks high schoolers having responsibility is essential to teenagers reaching adulthood. Things a high schooler can do like taking on AP classes or getting a job are just some ways to learn how to be an adult.

“In my opinion, it is appropriate for teenagers to have the responsibilities associated with having a job and taking Advanced Placement classes. Teenagers are very close to being adults, in which many more responsibilities will come,” Dr. Rukstad said. “I also believe that developmentally, having responsibilities and using the skills associated (reasoning, problem solving, time management, organization, emotional control, etc) is important in building the capacity for greater responsibility as individuals mature.”

Part of growing up means having more obligations. Having a job in high school can teach responsibility, but for some it can do more damage than good. Out of 600,000 10th to 12th graders, those who worked for more than 15 hours a week had lower grades, higher use of cigarettes, alcohol and other illicit drugs. But while grade point averages dropped for white and Asian-American high schoolers, having a job did not affect the GPAs of Hispanics and African Americans, according to a study conducted from 1991 to 2010 by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Working at Old Navy, senior Ellen Dill-Hirsch has to handle this extra responsibility with school work. She works one or two shifts a week so that she is able to keep up with her class work while making some money.

“The best way to handle the responsibility is to know exactly what you want out of the job and making sure your job knows how many hours you expect to work so they don’t over schedule you,” Dill-Hirsch said.

Teens can have more and other responsibilities besides a job, such as school work, taking care of younger siblings or athletics. According to Raising Children Network, a non-profit organization that gives information to help parents raise their kids, a child without responsibility doesn’t have the opportunity to learn and make decisions through experience. But when a high schooler takes on too much, it can lead to loss of self confidence and poor decision making.

“It is really important that kids have responsibilities that are age appropriate starting even as early as preschool. Of course, the appropriate responsibilities change and increase as the child grows,” counselor Tiffany Borst said. “As a teen, being responsible for school work, household chores, leadership positions at school, and maybe even an after school job are all very positive. Having appropriate responsibility builds positive self esteem. We feel good about ourselves when we follow through on responsibility.”

Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist, believes today’s teens should be treated more like adults. In an interview with Empowering Parents he said that kids should have responsibilities at home other than mindless chores. Dr. Epstein thinks if kids help their parents do real work, such as his kid who helps him edit audio files for his radio program, then adolescents will have experience that is more valuable than extracurricular activities at school.

Appropriate responsibilities for teenagers depends on the circumstance. What responsibilities one person has might not apply to someone else. But having responsibility as a teenager can help shape a person for hardships that lay ahead of them in adulthood.  

“I think for some people [taking AP classes, or having jobs as responsibilities] works. But people who can’t manage their time well don’t do well with that,” Banker said. “It’s hard to juggle so many things like if someone is already in AP classes and a student athlete. It may be hard for them to hold down a job and keep their grades up, so it kind of depends on the person and the situation.”

What responsibilities do you think are appropriate for teenagers? Leave a comment below.