Why Boundaries Are Necessary

Why Boundaries Are Necessary

Eloy Kim, Junior Staff Writer

It’s a cultural thing. As a Korean-American, my childhood was very distinct from most American households. Aside from the obvious differences like language and food, my childhood revolved around these two words: discipline and respect. These are values that lie within the very heart of Korean culture, and I doubt there are many Koreans who don’t know this. For example, instead of playing games or watching TV, my parents had me focus on my studies or practicing my violin. I was also taught to treat elders like they were miniature gods, such as bowing whenever I was in their presence.

As a kid, there wasn’t a lot of freedom for me, and I initially despised this. Yes, perhaps the boundaries set by Korean parents can be too restricting. Some may say that this method of upbringing is old school, perhaps even ancient. As I grow older, however, I’ve come to appreciate the journey my parents set out for me in shaping my character.

Times have changed greatly in the past two decades: with the advent of the technological boom, society is expanding its capabilities every day. This freedom, however, has the potential to do more harm than good. Parents now have to deal with technology that didn’t exist for them 20 years ago, making it harder for them to set limits on their kids. Furthermore, past problems such as drugs and explicit content still exist, propagated by mass media. Indeed, changes in the culture of young Americans have increased dramatically – but that does not mean our boundaries should lessen.

Our teenage years are perhaps the most turbulent and vulnerable moments of our lives. According to a 2017 TIME article: “Advanced brain imaging has revealed that the teenage brain has lots of plasticity, which means it can change, adapt and respond to its environment.” In other words, teenagers are still growing individuals who need guidance. This fragile condition means parents must be even more attentive, for a teenager’s exposure to negative things can have detrimental effects. The same article continues: “Teens can learn things harder, stronger, faster, and they can get addicted harder, stronger, faster… A 2016 study reported that the risk of addiction to opioids increased nearly 40% among young people ages 18 to 25 from 2002 to 2014.” 

Although the teenagers’ minds haven’t changed, their lifestyle certainly has. The age of the smartphone has introduced a wealth of freedom to everyone. We are more connected than ever through social media, and we have access to entertainment and information right at our fingertips. But the dangers cannot be overstated: Explicit content such as pornography remain largely unregulated. Furthermore, a large part of teenagers’ lives are wasted on hours glued to their screens. In fact, according to a report on ABC news, teens spend more than 7 hours on screens for entertainment a day. Sydney Vaupel, a junior, says: “As much as I hate to admit it, I spend more time on my phone than I probably should.” Sydney, however, also sees her iPhone in a positive light, claiming it to be a good relaxing mechanism: “Whenever I feel stressed, I like to use my phone to relieve myself of it.” 

This is not to say that all teenagers lack discipline, but it’s important for parents to know the risks out there that come with the changing times. The current general narrative and culture is moving towards a more lenient upbringing, which isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, Isabella Sandberg, a junior, sees her relationship with her parents as very lax, but still maintain a good understanding between each other. “I would say they don’t mind much of what I do,” Isabella says, “so long as I get my work done.” But when it comes to setting rules and boundaries, parents and guardians ought to be careful and considerate. Every child is different; there is no parenting manual with every teenager’s name on it. Nevertheless, the right balance of discipline and freedom is needed in every household and this comes with the recognition that sometimes, as a parent, you have to say no.