In this week’s Current, we bring readers the first installment of a series of stories on what’s been dubbed “Generation Next” – those between the ages of 16 and 25.

Over the next several months, we’ll explore what defines this generation and makes it distinct. We’ll try to find out what these young men and women do with their time, what’s important to them and where they might be headed.

Our series follows a documentary that recently aired on Maine Public Broadcasting called “Generation Next.” Journalist Judy Woodruff spent a year interviewing members of this age group for the documentary.

“It was clear to me that no one has looked at the younger generation in-depth,” Woodruff told a reporter for The Current this week to explain why she embarked on the project.

We agree there is more to be learned about this generation. The world is always changing, and some would argue it’s now changing faster than ever. It’s easy for adults to lose touch with the generations that follow them, which are shaped by technological innovations, changing popular culture, world events and new ideas, as well as their parents and peers.

While we won’t devote a year to the project, as Woodruff did, over the next several months, we’ll bring readers stories on local members of this generation. The stories will focus primarily on the youngest of this generation – 16- to 19-year- olds.

Woodruff found this generation to be diverse, but she did find some common characteristics. Among them was the close relationship many of them have with technology. Many grew up with a computer in their home or at school and, therefore, integrated it into their lives.

This will come as no surprise to parents, who have watched members of this generation spend hours instant messaging on a computer, building a MySpace page or listening to an iPod. But it’s unclear how this relationship with technology is affecting teens.

Woodruff also discovered that teens seem to have a particularly close relationship with their parents. In her reporting, she encountered a term – “helicopter parents” – used to describe parents so involved in their children’s lives that they hover over them so much that it can become invasive.

We encountered this aspect of the generation in the first installment of the series this week, in which we take readers to a club some local teenagers have turned to as a gathering place – the Station. Parents were there, watching over their kids at a concert Saturday night. While it’s understandable many parents would be worried about allowing their children to attend a club that serves alcohol unsupervised, we also found many safeguards in place to ensure teenagers didn’t have access to alcohol or drugs. Teenagers aren’t allowed to hang out outside and don’t have access to the bar. The club also has security guards roaming everywhere.

We hope readers will find our series to be a revealing look at the lives of a group of young people that don’t often appear in the pages of this newspaper, or any newspaper, outside of the sports section.

Brendan Moran, editor

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