Studies show there has been a 30% increase (in the last 30 years) in teenage narcissism. More kids today think they are more awesome than everyone else. Many teens struggle with narcissism because they are constantly faced with social media, reality tv and technology that tells them they are stars and entitled to do and say whatever they want.
Children aged 9 to 11 now hold “fame” as their No. 1 value. Fame ranked 15th in 1997.- Journal of Psychology Research on Cyberspace
And we (culture, teachers, parents, youth workers and coaches) only reinforce this idea that they have to think of themselves as incredibly special and deserve a trophy for everything. Consequently, psychologists conclude that teens not only feel a sense of entitlement but are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a very hopeful and positive view of today’s teens. In fact over the past 10 years, teenage pregnancy and crime rates have gone down. And I strongly believe teens have this hunger to be a part of a sacrificial mission. But now in the digital, postmodern world, teenagers are now experiencing a new epidemic of narcissism that is effecting them all.
So how can youth workers address this narcissistic problem among our fellow youth?
Here are a few suggestions:
- show them how to have empathy for others
- more teens need to hear more adults talk about kindness, manners, integrity, humility, commitment and thankfulness
- make entitled teens do difficult, labor intensive work
- teach on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.3-12)
- invite teens to talk about why and what they are gratitude for. One of the best ways to combat entitlement is getting students to share: what they already have and what they take for granted. Expressing gratitude is the opposite of being entitled. Gratitude forces teens to reflect on what they already have, instead of what they “deserve”.
Questions for my fellow youth worker friends:
Do you think today’s teens are narcissistic? or do you think they show an insane ability to demonstrate selflessness? How do you think self-esteem and narcissism are different?
What ways do you deal with this epidemic of narcissism within your youth ministry?