Unrealistic high school expectations

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

High school is often thought of as the time of our lives; precious moments of youth that we can never get back. Teenagers on television spend their days filled with adventure and excitement, where they look immaculate every single day, no matter how many issues they have. These “teenagers” encounter family problems, relationship drama or maybe even a murder mystery or two just to keep themselves occupied, yet they rarely spend time on the most major thing happening in a highschooler’s life: high school. Before high school, kids dream of “glowing up,” finding love and going to parties, often forgetting or ignoring the more realistic mundane routine of studying, doing extracurriculars and worrying about college that is expected of all highschoolers.

The fact that television shows like “Glee” and “Riverdale” are fiction is common knowledge, yet they still set kids up for a rude awakening once they hit high school. Teenagers in real life do not look like the cast of “Gossip Girl.” In a majority of high school shows, fully grown actors are cast to play sixteen year olds. Meaning that the awkward stage of acne, braces and soul searching is consistently overlooked and the image of perfect adult actors give actual teenagers impractical and unhealthy ideas as to what their still developing bodies should appear as.  “Mean Girls” star, Rachel McAdams was 24 years old when she was cast as the 16-year-old high school queen bee Regina George. 

The presence of sex is concerningly one of the most normal aspects of high school life portrayed in these shows, with characters having sexual intercourse on a normal basis. Sex is often presented as a casual activity without any risks or consequences and made out to be something that would earn them popularity and recognition by fellow students. With teenage sex being so normalized in the media, teens feel more pressured and feel the need to follow in the footsteps of their favorite characters. According to a recent study led by RAND Health, watching television shows with sexual content hastens the initiation of sexual activity between teenagers.

Highschoolers are constantly juggling the pressure of the future, school, social life, sports, extracurriculars: home life and countless other things. In television, however, the entire personalities of teen characters are rooted in them engaging in stereotypical cliques. Additionally, they appear to only live an exciting life that effectively overflows with blossoming romance. In the long run, popularity does not mean much. It is great to have connections with lots of people, but having a close group of friends and being yourself is much more likely to lead to good high school memories. 

Teenagehood is all about making mistakes and getting to know yourself better. It is the perfect opportunity for experimentation and self discovery. Our teenage years are not meant to be the best time in our lives, but we should make exciting, long lasting memories to look back on in order to be able to reflect and build a better self.