The Lost Skills of Teens Today
As another group of young millennials are heading off into the workforce, there are a few traditional skills I’m afraid they’ve never acquired. These are skills that might seem archaic to young people who are quite adept at navigating a digital world. However, the types of tasks that are to follow are ones that are extraordinarily commonplace to the parents of these graduates and are likely to be needed long into the future.
Unfortunately, I have come to understand young people’s attitudes towards these skills the hard way. So, for example, I once had an extended debate with a student as to whether there was ever a scenario in which one needed to supply their own phone number in voicemail wherein they requested a return call. To this student, cell phones or caller ID were so ubiquitous that anyone who retrieved the voicemail would be able to see the numbers of the people who called the phone. Apparently, this student assumed that anyone who might work at doctor’s office or any company would naturally use their personal cell phone for all communications related to their work and that the main number of these businesses was simply that of an employee who worked there. In my work, the majority of my calls are from parents who do almost always identify themselves in their message and leave me with their preferred method to return contact. However, I would estimate that more than 90% of the occasional voicemails I receive from students do neither of these things. They are usually something simply along the lines of “Hi, I have a question for you. Please give me a call back.”
A parent once shared with me an anecdote that she had tasked her son with addressing a number of envelopes for an event she was having. The teenager in turned placed the stamp in the dead center of the envelopes and wrote the return and recipient addresses in incorrect places as well. At first, the parent thought this was the act of a careless young man until she realized he really didn’t know any better.
I’ve also seen students who seem unaware of how to write a check or how to properly use a phone that is not cell phone (or what“dial 9 to get out” means). They prefer to text and don’t do a good job of monitoring their email and their business etiquette can be somewhat lacking in situations like interviews or formal meals. In other words, there are some skills young graduates will be expected to know in the adult world, because adults use these skills, but the schools are not doing much to teach these skills and young people are too connected to the alternative digital versions of these skills to have ever needed to acquire them.
If schools are teaching these things, it’s probably a quick lesson on one day, perhaps in elementary or middle school. If that lesson covers a skill the student doesn’t use again for a long time, it’s easy to forget. So, I think the onus of really teaching these types of things ultimately falls on parents. Consider teaching your child how to do some things that are second nature to you that might not be to them. You never know when they are going to need it.
Rob Hicks, M.Ed.,has worked in public schools for 16 years. He is a school counselor at Fernandina Beach High School and the Ogburn School. He maintains the "Getting My Guide On" blog about all things school counselor at guidey.blogspot.com and writes about local history