Teens change attitude toward Sweet 16


A sweet 16 birthday cake. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Most teenagers today can recall childhood fantasies of turning 16. Who could blame them when having a sweet 16 was portrayed in the media as being magical and important.

The popular Disney Channel movie “16 Wishes” was a staple in most high schooler’s childhoods. It was about a girl who had her wishes miraculously come true on her 16th birthday, ending with the enormous party she had always dreamed of.

Having a huge sweet 16 was a theme of that time when the movie came out in 2010. The reality show “My Super Sweet 16” aired during that time as well and was all about teens’ sixteenth birthday parties.

No wonder kids dreamed of having their own spectacular celebrations.

“As a kid, I thought turning 16 would be the most magical thing in the world,” said 15-year-old sophomore Reya Patel. “I imagined that I will have a huge party with all my friends and family, and I would make a grand entrance in a gorgeous ball gown.”

Reya’s experience is shared by many other high schoolers including 15-year-old sophomore Grace Lane.

“I thought that turning 16 I would feel so much older and more responsible,” said Grace. “Turning 16 in the movies seemed like it was a new life.”

Although turning 16 did not bring a new life for most teens, it did seem to mean much more to teens in the past than it does to the current teenagers.

“It was a very big deal when I turned 16,” said Leah Crane who is a parent to a 15-year-old. “I was allowed to have a big party at my house and even invite my guy friends. Most of my friends had parties as well!”

She feels that teenagers are still celebrating, but it is more in a lowkey way than it used to be.

“I feel like they usually just go out to dinner with a group of their friends,” said Leah.

A small party with a few friends appears to be the new preferred way to celebrate.

“All I want to do for my sweet 16 now is to just spend it with people that care for me,” said Reya.

Maybe Reya, along with other teenagers, are realizing it is not the extravagance that makes a birthday special, but rather being surrounded by people that truly love you instead of a large group of half strangers.

“I might have a sweet 16 birthday party, but I might not,” said Grace. “I won’t feel officially 16 until I get my license, and other than that it is basically just another birthday.”

Perhaps the ability to get a driver’s license and a job is really what teenagers strive for. It’s not the age of 16 that is so special, it’s the exciting new opportunities that come with it.

“She is so excited to turn 16,” said Leah regarding her daughter. “I think it’s because she will be one step closer to getting her driver’s license.”

So maybe sweet 16 isn’t the fairy tale moment so many dreamed about as kids, but it will always bring teens a step closer to adulthood.

“At the time, turning 16 seemed like a huge milestone,” said Reya. “I thought as soon as I turn 16 it would mark the point where I would be an adult or treated like an adult, but I’ve now realized that adulthood is not a flip of a switch.”