Today’s Teens Wouldn’t Have Survived the ’80s and ’90s

As a parent to a teenager, I am fully qualified to write this post. It’s necessary to do so, or I may explode on one of today’s youth. This week, I watched the timeless ’90s classic Jawbreaker. A deliciously wicked mix of pretty iconic ’90s teen actors and girl-hate, complete with social statements, murder and Marilyn Manson.

Watching Jawbreaker got me thinking though. As I struggle with my own teenager to do simple things like homework, I am reminded that teens in the ’80s and ’90s had it hard. We were caught between an evolving world while trying to maintain our innocence


Here are five reasons why today’s teens would have “literally” died in the ’80s and ’90s:

Lack of tech

I love the meme that says: Respect your parents because they survived school without Google. Preach on. Not only that, but teachers nowadays also give students digital resources to study and do their work. Most of us had to go to the library (gasp!) to research and use a computer. Some of us – those really lucky – had computers at home, but dealt with slow Internet connections and printers that freaked out the night before a paper was due. There were no cellphones, much less ones that did work for you. Texting and social media didn’t exist. If you wanted to reach someone, you called or paged their beeper. Even less of us had those.

As far as entertainment, we had a TV and maybe a video game console. We read books. We played outside. We got sunburned from staying out too long because there was nothing else to do. We couldn’t – and most didn’t want to – waste time staring at a screen all day. Sure, technology makes much of our tasks easier now, but teens need to get a grip and do something else. It’s not rocket science; maybe get off the devices and do something productive.

We were a lot tougher

I had to get my first job when I was 10 years old. I didn’t have a choice because I wanted something important that my parents couldn’t afford. My first job was mowing yards and washing cars. I used a push mower, and the back incline was at a 45-degree angle. I weighed all of 65 lbs., but I pushed that mower side to side on that hill every week. When I was 15, I started at the store and remained there until I was 26. I essentially grew up at work.

Many of our parents couldn’t afford to buy us whatever we wanted. We got a couple of things for holidays, and we appreciated them. Way more than teens today do. And we dang sure didn’t get a $300 phone and $700 bucks worth of games, clothes, music, etc. In high school, most of my friends had almost full-time jobs, and we had to have them to help support ourselves and families. We had and wanted to become self-sufficient.

The world did not revolve around us. Ever.

The absence of social media meant we could not – and never would be – the center of attention. We were all equal. Sure, there were cliques, but you knew who your true friends were and you helped protect others. We cared about life. We knew hurt and sorrow. I knew four people in high school who died in tragic accidents, but we didn’t disrespect them by posting horrible comments about how much we hated them or go on about how big the loss. We were private, and we respected each other. We had a sense of comradery and looked out for one another. The world owned us nothing, and we had to depend on ourselves.

No Re-dos

I was blown away a few weeks ago when I found out kids can retake tests they fail (in Nashville). What?! Retakes?

I feel this is a disservice to students. First, there are no retakes in college. Secondly, there are no retakes in life or work. If you fail, you fail. It’s that simple. Teens in the ’80s and ’90s made a ton of mistakes, but most of us turned out fine. We made mistakes, partied, lied to our parents, they busted us, and we paid the price. It made us smarter too because we had to think of creative ways to get what we wanted. How do you change or improve yourself if you can just redo your mistakes? That goes against reality in ways I don’t even have words to express. Shame on the administrators who approved that process in order to achieve higher test scores.

Censorship Didn’t Exist

I was young when Tipper Gore went on her censorship crusade and eventually got the “explicit language” warning on albums. Did that stop me from buying those albums. Of course not! Did it stop people of age buying me CDs with those lyrics? Of course not! The music scene in the ’80s and ’90s was raw, expressive and full of protest. Much of it was passionate and spoke out against wrongdoings. We weren’t sheltered from the real world, we lived in it and could relate to the music.

We watched the O.J. Simpson trial and verdict in our classrooms (I was 13 years old). We followed trials that accused Michael Jackson of child sexual abuse (11 years old). We were there when Bill Clinton faced his adultery mistake with Monica Lewinsky (15 years old). We lived through the Columbine High School tragedy (17 years old) and watched the world in turmoil during the Gulf War (8-9 years old). Our parents didn’t keep it from us; they educated and better prepared us for the world that we live in now.

With all that said, I applaud all of you who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Thanks for reading and becoming the people you are!

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Revenant Publications 90s banner

In the middle of the woods, a group of teenagers sit around a campfire telling ghost stories. They start each tale with, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story…”

Recognize it? It’s the opening of my favorite 90s show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Nickelodeon.

Last Saturday, I realized that Are You Afraid of the Dark is streaming free on Amazon Prime. All six seasons. Free. And I was so excited I could barely contain it – like buying my 350Z excited!

Back in the Day

Are You Afraid came on Friday nights, and I watched in my grandparent’s room because we didn’t have cable at my house. I closed the door, turned out the lights to watch it in the dark, and shut out the world – much like I do now with Psych. That was my time.

It was never scary, especially considering I grew up watching horror movies, but it was just creepy enough to make you feel uneasy. Most of the characters are teens acting, thinking, and speaking like teenagers. It’s believable and sold the story.

Does it still hold up?

Absolutely. If you’re looking for gore, sex, and loud jump scenes, you’re out of luck. The show’s tales are pretty clean, but they address adolescent issues such as fitting in, family, and dating. However, it being the 90s, some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous; this was before the everything-must-be-CGI era.

Looking Back

Now that I’m more mature and somewhat grown up, there are a few things I found noteworthy:

  • We were way more lax in the 90s. In one episode, there was real fire in a fun house hallway, and a kid gives someone a box of cigars he somehow bought. As a kid, I never questioned those things, which shows we’re way too nit-picky about stupid crap. Nowadays, parents would have rioted.
  • The show promoted adolescent creativity. Are You Afraid of the Dark was better than shows like Goosebumps because the kids wrote the stories (that’s the premise, anyway). Each kid wrote a story and brought it to the group to share. It’s a wonderful example of imagination, comradery, and keeping an open mind. Similar shows were based off books or stories written by an adult – these tales are straight from the kids.
  • We need a show like this now. I love some modern shows like iCarly and Victorious, but some, Pretty Little Liars, Secret Life, and Degrassi, are way too serious. Adolescents have it pretty tough, so why should we show more drama? The world has more than enough. A good scary tale helps us release tension when we scream or jump, and these episodes always taught a lesson. Reminding kids how to be kind and tolerant (in a fun way) never gets old.
  • It doesn’t always end well. My favorites are the one with a twist. Everything doesn’t always end happily ever after, and some episodes are pretty disturbing.

With that said, here’s one of my favorites. I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed 🙂