Young and disillusioned with government

The years between adolescence and adulthood can be among the most confusing.

Plagued with conflicting ideas, rebellious tendencies, and peer pressure, some teenagers turn inward and develop anti-government attitudes turning to radical groups such as skinheads and anarchists.

For years, these groups have protested the government and were regarded as the dark side of American politics. Some believe that as government has passed legislation affecting the personal lives of citizens, this defiant attitude has become more popular among teens.

But not all anti-government youth express the detrimental qualities associated with underground groups who openly challenge governmental authority. Most simply have very mature political views and dislike the path that government is taking, according to several interviews.

"Don't make me sound like an anarchist, but I feel like the government tries too much to take over people's lives, which is one thing it shouldn't have the right to control," said Brooke Logan, an 18-year-old Honor Society student at Triton Regional High School in Runnemede, N.J.

She thinks that government should be valued in society, but at the same time not intrude on the individual lives of its citizens.

Logan was not alone in her disapproval of how much power the government has and how that power is used. Triton senior Phillip Foglia said he supports government, but opposes "the Federal Reserve controlling the economy and the Patriot Act controlling the citizenry."

From the Patriot Act to the Obama administration's attempt at limit the amount of potatoes and other starchy foods in public school lunches, several teenagers say that government has overstepped its boundaries and is using "gross over-reaching power," as Foglia put it.

In a poll conducted on Facebook of New Jersey citizens aged 18 to 25, 56 percent said they support the U.S. government, 20 percent oppose it, and 24 percent replied "other."

Very few anti-government teenagers can be pinned as skinheads, anarchists, or even troubled. It is the increase in availability of political information that challenges youths to exercise free thought. These teens may be critical of government but have no desire to take negative action against it.

Sarah Andrae, a senior at Triton Regional High School and part of the 24 percent who replied "other," said, "I believe that some order is necessary for the growth and development of a nation.

"However, the U.S. democratic system has become a petty competition between Democrats and Republicans regardless of their policies or what is best for us as a nation," said Andrae.

Other students expressed distaste for the government's foreign entanglements.

"I don't agree with spending billions of dollars on military resources," said Rachael Stieg, 18, a Triton senior.

Students such as Triton senior Brian Davis are disheartened by how much support the U.S. government seems to have from fellow peers, even if it's reluctant.

"Please look into what the government is doing, you are basically a puppet to them," he said, in regard to the poll.

Psychologist and teacher Jennifer Armstrong does not think that the anti-government tendencies among teens are a developmental stage so much as a byproduct of the technological generation. With unprecedented access to presidential speeches, quotes and agendas, it is easy to take an informed position at one extreme or the other, as opposed to 20 years ago.   

"Twenty years ago, it was 1992 and not everyone had access to the Internet," she said. "If teenagers are more anti-government now, it's because they're more aware."