28 Simple Things Today's Teens Don't Know How to Do

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Confused looking teenage girls
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What time is it? If it's not a digital watch or a phone screen, some kids are downright stumped. And telling time isn't the only traditional skill or activity getting lost amid rapid changes in technology, fashion, and culture. Here's a playfully nostalgic look at things all teens used to know how to do that teens today often don't. Progress or lost arts? You decide.
Clock on a brick wall
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With the prevalence of cellphones and digital watches, the ability to read an analog clock is no longer a given. You might see kids looking at a wall clock with a puzzled look. If you feel it's a necessary skill, pick one up for your kitchen or family room ($18 at Staples).
Driving a stick shift
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Ah, memories of puttering out in a parking lot when dad was trying to teach you to drive his Volkswagen. Learning to drive stick was a rite of passage for many. Popular Mechanics says the manual transmission is on the endangered species list, but it's a skill that could come in handy in a pinch.

Putting a pizza in the microwave
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Kids might play around in the kitchen, helping bake cookies — but not many could muster a full family dinner, especially without relying on the microwave. Isn't that what takeout is for? Remember, Hot Pockets and precut celery sticks do not count as a meal.
Teen at the dinner table looking at her phone
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For many families, sitting down together to a table set with plates, utensils, glasses, and maybe even a centerpiece is something reserved for the holidays. Who doesn't remember coming in from playing and being told to "set the table"? Now, it's all grab utensils, fill a plate, and find a seat.
Writing in a notebook
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Writing cursive, or what we called script, is a dying art. Most schools have abandoned teaching the skill, and most teens print their way through life.
Boy in school using a laptop
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Birthday cards, notes on paper, reports … yes, teens still have to do those things, but for the most part, electronic alternatives have taken over. Kids type on the computer, send ecards, and text mom a note; forget writing a letter, folding it into an envelope, addressing it, adding the stamp, and putting it in the mailbox. The message still gets through, though the method is decidedly different.
Old pencil sharpener
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How many times did you sharpen a pencil in your early years? Today, it's a rarity for the younger set to be sharpening, or even using, a pencil.
Open encyclopedia
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It's all online, so kids faced with encyclopedias, a print dictionary, a paper map, or an atlas often greet these objects as strangers. Libraries have adjusted, so the rest of us may as well.
Sewing a button on a shirt
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If you lost a button, you went to the button box and sewed another one on. Same with a hole in your sock: a quick darning extended its wear. Today, socks are considered disposable, and simple sewing fixes are often left to the seamstress at the dry cleaner even though there are good, cheap sewing machines available.
Piggy bank
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Wasn't there such a feeling of accomplishment when you saved your allowance to buy the latest record, toy, or fashion accessory? Today, it's all too often about parents paying for these things and kids failing to learn about saving and budgeting.
Playing a vinyl record
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Despite a resurgence of vinyl among a decidedly hip contingent, Spotify reigns supreme and the joy of playing the latest new release on your bedroom turntable is something most kids miss out on.
Teenager wearing a tank top and ripped shorts
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How many altar servers have high-top sneakers poking out from their cassocks, and how many teens do you see wearing low-cut tops or shorts at a fancy restaurant? A sense of appropriate dress — yes, you do need a pair of dress shoes in life — has fallen by the wayside. (And not just for teens).
Hipster teen sticking her tongue out
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Now we're going to sound like we're 100 years old, but when did "gimme the salt" become acceptable? Proper grammar is sadly missed, as is graciousness. Say "thank you" to any young clerk and it's a lock you won't hear "you're welcome" but rather "no problem." Grr …
Bored teen on her phone
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How many times do you fail to be introduced to your teens' friends or their parents? The old "This is Suzy's mom" has been replaced by staring into space. Many teens feel awkward with basic introductions and polite small talk. We hated it, too, but were forced to learn how to act.
Teenagers lounging on the couch using their phones
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No, the mall is not a hobby. It was almost a given that hobbies were a part of life, from painting to doing magic tricks, coin collecting, embroidery, or jigsaw puzzles. Today's mobile, overscheduled world doesn't often leave time for simple pleasures.
Laundry basket
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It's a skill you needed for college, so many families would get you started early by having you help with the laundry. Today, it seems that fewer kids are able to unload the hamper, start a wash, and see it through the folding back into the drawer.
Dad showing son how to mow the lawn
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Isn't this what the landscaper is for? Back in the day, unless you were the child of millionaires, your parents usually mowed the lawn, and you joined the "fun" once you were old enough. Sometimes it was even a contingency of getting an allowance.
Hand-washing a car
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Wetting it down, the soapy sponge next — and remember, no splashing each other. Today, it's a trip to the car wash for most families.
Checkbook and pen
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With the advent of online banking and paying for most everything with a tap of the credit card or phone, writing a paper check is unfamiliar to many teens. What a feeling it was to get your own checking account when going away to college.
Public bus in the city
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Car pools, taxis, and car-share services such as Lyft and Uber have made a real dent in the old habit of taking the minibus to the mall or navigating a folded-up train or bus schedule.
Cashier making change
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If the cash register's on the fritz and you've handed a teen a $10 bill for a $6.13 purchase, it's a good bet they will struggle to come up with your correct amount of change in their head. Hey, we love a good calculator, too — but you have to know basic math skills. (And let's not discuss multiplication or long division).
Tuning a transistor radio
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Turning the dial on a transistor radio is another thing kids won't understand. How great was it to finally hear the ballgame clearly or catch a favorite song after the static cleared? Today, it's all programmed digital shortcuts.
Vintage camera
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Aside from the resurgence of novelty Polaroid cameras used for party pix, using traditional cameras and having film being sent to developing are foreign concepts. Kids take pictures on their phones.
Driver looking at GPS navigation on her phone
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Teens with licenses have no qualms about getting behind the wheel and not knowing the route. Forget printing out directions, looking at maps, or asking for detailed landmarks. The GPS will say which turns to make.
Group of teenage girls having fun at the mall
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Today's teens tend to do more what they want rather than what they should. We always had schoolwork first — then the extracurricular activities, friends, and more.
Young teen dancing to music and wearing headphones
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We didn't listen to our parents favorite bands — but we knew who they were. Today's teens sometimes seem to live more in their own worlds, focused intensely on the latest buzz band. The interest and familiarity with what's come before, in entertainment and the arts, doesn't seem to be a high priority as much as what's brand new. Though, to be fair, the same critique of musical tastes and interests among the younger crowd has likely been grumbled by the older generation since the advent of music.
Netflix movie buffering
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It's a give-it-to-me-now world. With day-of deliveries on an increasingly large number of products and movies on demand, the pace of life has shifted on nearly all fronts.
Teens taking a selfie at a concert
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Teens have always been active, but schedules have become so overbooked that it's rare for them to have free weekends or nights with no plans. We all need to "Enjoy the Silence," as Depeche Mode sang. (And yes, we know Depeche Mode means nothing to them).

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