Because we’re due for good news, I want to share this with you. It’s sure to revive your battered hope and beleaguered optimism.
Today’s teens are behaving better than their elders give them credit for. The latest statistics prove it. So much for the gloom and doom we (of a certain age) keep predicting.
Young Americans are smoking, drinking and bullying less than they once did. Also, fewer are getting pregnant, prompting a director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to tell Time magazine, “We can’t eliminate all risk, but we are seeing overall good trends in all areas.”
Take that, you judgmental baby boomers.
Don’t believe the rosy picture? Prefer to stay on your high horse to sell the next generation short? Then consider this: The high school smoking rate has dropped to 15.7 percent, the lowest level since the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey began measuring in 1991 The number of students gulping alcohol has also gone down, and teen pregnancy rates are at a record low, showing a 10 percent decline in just one year. Experts speculate that teens are less sexually active than in the past and those that are report using some form of birth control.
And all that creepy news we hear about an epidemic of bullying, prompting us to think we’ve raised a generation of tormentors and oppressors? Not so fast. The National Center for Education Statistics data show bullying among 12- to 18-year-olds dropped to 22 percent in 2013, the lowest figure since 2005.
Sure, there are concerns. There should be. Adolescence, after all, is that stage in life when we have the energy of an atomic bomb and the foresight of an unsharpened pencil. And so in spite of these impressive gains, use of e-cigarettes has tripled among middle and high schoolers and 41 percent of teens admit to texting and driving, behavior that amounts to a suicide wish. Still … still the rosy portrait painted by these numbers should be enough to lift spirits.
This collection of data comes at a particularly auspicious time for me. I’ve been on the receiving end of email rants by a few misguided souls who believe that everything that is different with our youngsters is also wrong and dangerous.
Hasn’t it always been so? Who hasn’t grumbled, palm to forehead, about “kids these days”?
Since recorded history, every generation seems destined to exaggerate the faults — and deficiencies — of the generation that follows it. Every group foresees decline, apocalypse, the end of reason and culture and values. If you’re reading this, you’re young enough to recall when our parents bemoaned our music, our habits, our choices.
Young people are lazy, they complained.
Young people are rude.
Young people have it too easy.
Young people don’t care about others.
Young people have been ruined by technology.
The refrain is as old as Methuselah. In 20 B.C. Horace mourned “a progeny yet more corrupt.” In 1771, a reader to Town and Country magazine wrote that the young were “effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles.” In 1816, The Times of London called the waltz an “indecent foreign dance.” And in an 1859 issue Scientific American warned against “a pernicious excitement to learn and play chess,” a game it considered inferior and cheerless.
Guess what? The panic passed. Doubts were forgotten. And humankind survived long enough for the next round of grievances.