Abigail S. Michigan

Decline in the Life of the Average Teen

Are teens really just lazy, or is there too much to do?

Have the expectations of the average teenager become too much to handle?

The motive of many teens is to become a successful adult, however those that are willing to put in the effort for it may ultimately suffer.

According to a study by the University of Phoenix College Education, one teacher gives about 3.5 hours worth of homework per week-and for the average schedule of 5 academic classes, that could mean around 17.5 hours of homework. Though this should be around 2 and a half hours per night, this is usually not the case. Students, such as myself and a plethora of classmates, sometimes spend between 5 and 8 grueling hours doing homework - and that’s just in one day.

I urge you to take action by setting a limit for how much homework a student can have. Adults may argue that if they could do it, we can; yet a multitude of sources say that the work has changed from memorization to critical thinking, ultimately severely increasing the time needed to spend per assignment. A 2011 study from the National Center for Education Statistics, for example, mentions that high schoolers used to spend 6.8 hours a week on homework, compared to the aforementioned 17+.

When students are plagued with this much to do, it prevents participation in other activities such as sports and clubs, which are now a necessity to gain financial support for the constantly mounting education costs. In addition, students with a myriad of extra-curricular and volunteer experiences that still maintain a high GPA are generally accepted over those with a perfect GPA and no extracurricular activities. 

Although these extracurriculars are beneficial, they still take up precious time. When one is involved in anything after school, it will throw off the ability to complete the assignments at a healthy time of day. When most teens should get between 8.5 and 9 hours of sleep (kidshealth.org) and if high school starts around 7:45, the latest they should be in bed is 10:45 - and that allows 45 minutes to get ready, get to school, and pray they walk in the classroom door before that bell chimes. It should be easy, right? Think again. Student health is suffering from the workload. I’ll give you a scenario: a student has a small assignment in each academic class (say 30 minutes each), that’s 2.5 hours of homework. Not only does that put the time over the 8 hours of a clichéd “9 to 5” work day (when added to the 7 hours of a normal school day), but it also leaves a mere quarter of a day for anything, and everything, else -  such as eating, bathing, and household chores. A shower and dinner take up close to an hour, but likely more, leaving around five hours. Students of high performing high schools spend around 20 hours Monday to Friday at extracurricular activities - leaving a minuscule one hour for travel, “de-stressing”, and quality time with family when a fairly “low” amount of homework is given. And that part time job we’re “supposed to have”? Talk about burnt out.

Burnout - a form of chronic stress defined and characterized by Lisa Gerry of Forbes as including exhaustion, lack of motivation, cognitive problems, slipping job performance, interpersonal problems at home and work, not taking care of oneself, generally decreased satisfaction, health problems, and negative emotions such as frustration and cynicism. Though Ms. Gerry is an adult describing her experience in a stressful profession, this coincides with the definition of ‘teenage angst’. Teens get this stereotype because they’re really just burnt out. Different people deal with this in different ways: some give up and don’t do anything, while others persevere because they are determined to prosper as an adult.

When the days of 5+ hours of homework come around, the resolute spend a couple of minutes to scarf down some sort of sustenance, and refuse to attend any other obligations because we simply can’t.

A couple of AP Chemistry students, including myself, have a running “joke” for these dreadful days. We refer to them as the “weekly mental breakdown”. Lately several of the students also try to find humor by asking if teachers intend to make us cry - not very funny jokes, if you ask me. But this is a reality of life for now: teens slumped against a wall sobbing in the middle of the school day because they don’t know how they can possibly do everything.

Don’t misunderstand my argument: I am not a indolent teen that wants to do nothing but sit around on my phone after school and not face repercussions. I still think homework is useful and just part of being a high-schooler, yet some days it is impossible; impossible to finish the workload in the slight 24 hours of a day, impossible to drag myself out of bed after how late I stayed up to get it all done, and impossible to be successful when my health is suffering because I am over-stretched like a rubber band about to snap - and I'm not the only one that feels that way.

Since 2013 teenagers have reported stress levels that exceed those of adults (NPR.org)

Therefore, set a limit to the amount of work for students. Not only will they be grateful, but it can increase performance because of the decreased stress. Students also will be healthier and have more capacity to perform well in class, along will on standardized tests - creating better statistics for the United States.