by David Safier
I'm gonna blame this on the schools. Whenever things happen with kids, no matter what it is, people like to say it's the schools' fault, so I might as well follow suit. I guess I've got to give a share of the blame to all the sex and violence in the media too — you name it, TV, movies, music (especially rap!), video games. They're so far over the top these days, it's gotta be affecting the kids! Oh, and don't forget parenting. You can't let the parents off the hook for their kids' behavior either.
For example, we've got to blame schools, media and parents for the rate of violence among youth these days. According to a recent op ed in the Star,
. . . arrests for serious violent offenses by juveniles have dropped about 60 percent from 1994 to 2011. Juvenile arrests have receded faster in the past 10 years than adult arrests. Property crime by youth also has sunk to its lowest point in 30 years.
Wait, what? You mean kids today are less violent than they were 20 years ago? That's not the impression I get from the media, or from adults complaining about "Kids nowadays!"
OK, but things have got to be worse in other areas, like bullying, teen pregnancy, drinking. Right?
. . . peer victimization, harassment and bullying — despite their ubiquity — have been abating in almost all of the surveys. Suicide, too, is less common.
Not only is the rate of teenage pregnancy down to record lows in the United States, but the percentage of ninth-graders who say they have had sexual intercourse has declined from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2013.
The number of teenagers who have been drunk in the past year is at a record low and the drop for eighth-graders is particularly remarkable.
What the hell is going on? How can I complain about how awful and depraved today's kids are if the stats make them look so good? Haven't our schools turned into jungles? Hasn't the increase in depictions of sex and violence in the media turned kids into raging ids? Aren't parents being too permissive, or too overprotective, or too . . . something or other?
If things were going the other way, if the stats were trending for the worse, people would be quick enough to blame the usual suspects. So I guess, given the direction things are going, we've got to say, "Congratulations social, cultural and educational institutions. Way to go! Whatever you're doing, keep it up!"
OK, time to remove my tongue from my cheek. Seriously, it looks like people who are all doom-and-gloomy about the state of our youth are way off base. Adults love to talk about how much better we were "when I was a boy/girl." Take my generation, for instance. We were involved! We protested the war in Vietnam and supported civil rights. The women's movement and the gay rights movement, among others, took hold during those years. But it's kind of hard for me to old-man people about how wonderful my generation was when our slogans were "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll!" and "Don't trust anyone over 30!" We weren't exactly poster children for morality and respect of our elders.
I don't know why the stats for today's youth are trending so favorably, and neither does the author of the op ed. He speculates that the internet and video games might be part of the reason, because they're always there when a kid is bored, and the standby cure for boredom is mischief. It may be when a kid is shooting up some imaginary people on a video screen, that's one less kid out on the streets getting into trouble. But that's just speculation. Whatever factors are involved, they're a good thing. Kids nowadays have reason to be proud of themselves, and we adults need to give them some credit. And all that sex and violence in the media, what's going on in schools, what parents are doing — it may not be so bad after all.