Recently, I sat in a comfortable, overstuffed chair with my favorite Starbucks in hand with a brainstorm group. We worked on an exercise to come up with some adjectives that best describe teens in 2015. As a group, words like “shallow,” “self-absorbed,” and “disengaged” popped up.

I get it. Many said the same thing about my generation and me. Let’s be honest.  All one has to do is scroll through an Instagram feed and see that this generation has not only invented the “Selfie” but has also perfected the art of it.  The term “Selfie” alone could support the general perceptions and lead one to surmise what this generation is all about.

Eschenbach said, “In youth we learn; in age we understand.” I’ve worked with teens for over a decade. Society often times write off teens as the “Selfie” generation. However, I’ve learned that there’s more under the surface than meets the eye. There are some key things to learn from teens that could inspire the world to #LiveSecond.

5 Things To Learn From Teens

1. It’s O.K. To Not Be O.K.

This generation, more than previous ones in recent history, celebrates and encourages peers to admit, “I’m not O.K.” Many feel this pressure to present ourselves in a way that says, “I am O.K.” Truth is everyone has “issues.” Teens embrace this reality.

2. Justice Matters

Kurt Cobain once said, “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” Teens have a high sensitivity to injustice.  Whether it be bullying, racism, sexism, poverty or sex trafficking, this generation doesn’t shake its head at these challenges. Instead they leverage their voice, creativity, and efforts to address injustices in their world.

3. Value Community

Teens value knowing others and being known. Relationships matter. Teens see community as a necessity and cultivate it with intentionality, both in person and online.

4. Celebrate Uniqueness

Our society creates labels and categories for almost anything.  This generation has a strong distaste for labels and celebrates the uniqueness of an individual.  Their approach teaches others that our job isn’t to dismiss or judge those around us, but to love others for who they are.

5. Globally Minded

The definition of a movement is “a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social or artistic ideas.”  Movements are catalysts for change. While teens celebrate individuality, they have the desire to be a part of something bigger.

A look beyond the “selfies,” reveals characteristics and values in teens that inspire others to #Live Second.

By David Martin

David Martin serves as the Director of I am Second Students. To learn more about this national student movement, click here.