Teens

Inside the teenage mind: Sex, school and social media 

Dec. 3, 2013 at 9:47 AM ET

Video: Jenna Bush Hager provides a look inside the minds of today’s teens in a candid conversation about bullying, peer pressure, drugs and dating in high school.

The transition from childhood to adulthood has never been easy. This is the time to rebel, discover love, ponder the future and watch your body change.

But today’s teenagers are facing many issues their parents couldn’t imagine, with social media changing the game in dramatic ways.

Imagine never asking someone out or being asked out on a date in person, with all the invitations coming via Facebook or texts on your phone.

Think about going to school in a world where everything is public, so finding out who is doing drugs, who is having sex and who is the target of bullies is just a matter of logging on to your favorite social network.

In TODAY’s special series, "Inside the Teenage Mind," which kicked off on Tuesday, correspondent Jenna Bush Hager sat down with 10 teens, ranging in age from 13 to 17, to find out how they navigate peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex. TODAY is withholding their last names.

“Teens face issues that are a lot different from 20 or 30 years ago and our lives are a lot different from our parents,” Luis said.

Cyberbullying was on the minds of many teens. Some of them noted there’s no escape from the mean comments, with hurtful messages arriving on their phones whether they were at school or at home.

“If someone said, like, ‘Go kill yourself,’ you can just read those words over and over,” one of the girls explained.

But some things never change. Many of the kids said they feel pressure to have sex, do drugs and fit in – issues that would sound familiar to previous generations.

When Hager asked the teens whether they have ever been offered drugs, all of them raised their hands. Some of their peers even post photos of themselves online while "smoking weed," Carter said.

Meanwhile, there's lots of emphasis on wearing the right clothes and looking a certain way if you want to be popular, especially for girls.

“To be, like, super-skinny and have big boobs and have this and have that. Or have straight hair or wear UGG boots and skinny jeans,” Camille noted.

“Girls are supposed to have a thigh gap… everyone's obsessed with the thigh gap.”

Related story: Why you shouldn't obsess over 'thigh gap'

Then, there's pressure from schools and parents to do well academically.

"I feel like schools are so obsessed with the grade and not what kids are actually learning," Luis said.

"People feel so much pressure to cheat these days," Jeremy added. 

The TODAY anchors called the conversation eye-opening, with new mom Hager proclaiming she has many years to get ready for her baby's teen years... but is already scared about what's to come.

What's your advice for parenting kids through the teen years? Sound off on our Facebook page.


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