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Student view: The clothes don't make the teen

Naperville North students say they're tired of being labeled by adults and the media

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A skateboarder grinds and kickflips off a rail in the alley where he practices his passion every day. A grandmother walks by, grimacing at his baggy pants and the ring in his eyebrow.

Dumb-blonde jokes circulate in the locker room among the chuckling jocks, punching one another to test stomach strength. But deep inside, they don't really understand what is so funny.

The determined geek walks into the library every day with a No. 2 pencil behind her ear and a week's workload of books under her arm. She's focused on only one thing: the need not to fail.

The skateboarder. The dumb jock. The geek. These are just some of the labels given to today's teens. Although individual teenagers may perpetuate these stereotypes, they are hardly characteristic of all American youth.

The media, however, do play on such labels. In an age when teens represent one of the biggest markets for movies and television, young people are often depicted in one-dimensional ways that sell, rather than in ways that reflect the complexities of young adulthood.

Take, for example, last year's "American Pie" and "American Beauty." These films showed teenagers in sexually explicit scenarios. Slasher films like "Scream" portray them as carefree and not necessarily intelligent.

"Some people see teenagers as the stereotypical rowdy teenager," says Sara Majewski, a senior at Naperville North. "Not everyone is a part of that group."

Matt Kearney, one of the junior-class presidents, thinks the media put teenagers in a box. "Like many other groups, there is an extreme variety of teenagers, and the media does not look at all groups."


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