Stereotyping Teen-Casual Conversations

I recently heard a story about something that happened at a library and it got me thinking.

Several unfortunate incidences happened to a young adult librarian and her co-workers. They were robbed at their place of work.’  Most of us can probably recall a time when a patron printed materials that they didn’t pay for or when a book walked off the shelf and never came back. But having a staff member’s personal belongings taken might be a bit rarer. As the conversation about the event took place, of course the topic of ‘so who did it?’ came up.

She said, ‘You know, what’s interesting, is what a few people at my library said about teens’:

  • “It wasn’t a teen that did it, was it?”
  • “I’m glad to hear it wasn’t a teen.”
  • “I for sure thought it was a teen when I heard it happen.”

Of course, not that it was wished it was an adult or anyone for that matter but the conversation gave some pause for reflection.

Are there times that we catch ourselves in our own stereotypes we might have of teens even if they’re sometimes partly true? Are there times when we find ourselves thinking that we wished we would have defended a teen who was the target of an unfair assumption even if it was just a passing topic of discussion? Have our own instances of pigeonholing teens been altered since we first started working with them in libraries?

Getting a little off topic, she and I brainstormed about what we might have said in retrospect. I think when we catch ourselves or others talking about teens in ways that negatively lump them together we ought to try to challenge the speaker as well as ourselves. Even if we can’t rattle off a statistic for the life of us from a study that would be perfect to fit into the conversation, perhaps we can recall a positive moment we recently had with a teen. By doing this, we might actually be helping how teens see themselves.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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