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The Secret Lives of Teens

Shara Azad

You know the story: rambunctious, sweet child turns into brooding, sullen teen, who sits behind the closed door of his bedroom listening to either unnecessarily depressing music or something that could hardly be considered a tune, consisting of harsh “Wo'oh”-ing and a sound like nails on a chalkboard. Or…

Adorable, “daddy's little angel,” turns into a boarder in the home, except she conveniently doesn't pay rent. Instead, she goes out 24/7, and on the rare occasion when she is at home, she is either on her cell phone or on the computer, chatting with her friends or basically anyone that isn't her parents.

You can't help but wonder what has gone wrong. How did the children change so drastically? Why is it that they want to be anywhere and with anyone but their families? Is this normal behaviour, just part of being a teen? Or are they hiding something?

It seems as though once one hits those troubled, teenage years, he or she craves a little more privacy. And to a certain extent, such privacy should probably be allowed since the teenage years are like training for adult life where there are choices galore. Of course, at the same time, it must be kept in mind that teenagers aren't quite adults, and the leash cannot be cut entirely. However, for the sake of giving a few more freedoms, the limits must be known. For instance, what exactly is the difference between privacy and secrecy?

In our culture, we seemingly like secrets -- actually, no, we seemingly like secrets a whole lot. In this country, there is almost a “don't tell” policy where topics such as disease (seen in the HIV/AIDS debacle), money, and relationships are not discussed. Ever. And these topics are turning into a problem, especially where teenagers are concerned.

In an effort to be more liberal, to respect their children's privacy, some parents are checking in much less when the kids are out of the home. This action is a nice change from the overprotective mother or father who called every five minutes because now the parents suffer less from the stress of calling frequently, and the teenager does not have to deal with the nuisance of answering the phone so often. However, such easing of restrictions combined with our penchant to keep secrets has caused the formation of a massive problem right under our noses, a sort of ticking bomb that is about to go off in any family.

Teenagers today, more than ever, are leading double lives. They must be overtly well behaved since parents graciously trust them to be responsible on the Internet and go out with friends, but at the same time, when something goes wrong, per our culture, they are hiding it away, locking it up as a secret. As a result, the gap between parent and child is growing and oftentimes the teen is in psychological or emotional distress that could easily be solved by a parent's wisdom.

For example, it is estimated that there are about 1.7 million drug abusers in Bangladesh, most of whom are in between the ages of 16 and 25. And while there is a certain social stigma attached with them, just think: these drug abusers could be your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your younger friends. They might not have even wanted to fall into the life-changing path of drugs--you know they are "good kids"--but now that they're there, they find it impossible to tell anyone what is wrong because our society just does not promote such discussion.

Another problem altogether is relationships in Bangladesh. Let's face it: teenagers today are dating, and though some families have been very welcoming towards friends of the opposite gender, others have not, which is not necessarily backwards or close-minded. However, even if a family were open to their children being in relationships, teenagers tend to still keep such things a secret. They go behind everyone's backs, meeting in café nooks and corners, becoming very attached to one another, and then, eventually and honestly, expectedly, they break up. And in between the tears and in extreme cases, suicide attempts, the parents notice there is something wrong, but they don't know what it is because of course, the teen has kept it all a secret.

However, wouldn't the parents want to know everything, especially in the occasion when the teen unwittingly meets a dangerous beau? Sometimes there is the pleasant surprise of a teenager finding a more than suitable match, but that is an exception rather than a rule.

In an effort towards self and family protection, perhaps we should institute a system of more communication. We seem to have adapted well to the ideas of privacy; now, we must reinforce the responsibility behind it. While every teen is not using Yaba or meeting her boyfriend at Movenpick, there are several out there who are, so even if their parents disapprove, they must be able to feel comfortable to divulge such details of their lives, without fear of overly harsh consequences. Really, it is for their own safety.

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