Yeah, the Kids Are Alright

I joke around a lot about telling kids to get off my lawn, but I’m really just making fun of myself for being old and out of touch. But it really irritates me when I hear people talk about the “millenials” and how lazy and shiftless and apathetic they allegedly are. Sociologist David Finkelhor points out how wrong those people are:

The news media likes to characterize today’s young people as risk averse, narcissistic, app-dependent, over-scheduled, entitled and “pornified.” Among the culprits are too much praise, not enough challenge, helicopter parents, cellphones and of course, the Internet.

But by many measures, young people are actually showing virtues their elders lacked. They have brought delinquency, truancy, promiscuity, alcohol abuse and suicide down to levels unseen in many cases since the 1950s. Rather than coming up with ever more old-fogey complaints, we should be celebrating young people’s good judgment and self-control — and extolling their parents and teachers.

Here are some of the most impressive developments.

You’ve probably heard that crime is down. But most of the remarkable facts about crime and delinquency among young people have not been trumpeted enough in a country just 20 years removed from fears that it was facing a generation of young “super-predators.” In fact, 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.

Of course, we read, quite correctly, that rates of rape on college campuses and in the military are high, and that victims are treated poorly. But rape and other sex crimes among youth have been decreasing. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the number of sexual assaults against 12- to 17-year-olds has declined by more than half since the mid-1990s. The number of youth arrests for sex offenses also has dropped. It may be hard to believe, but three nationwide and statewide victim surveys have corroborated these decreases…

We hear about the bullying epidemic in painful accounts of youth taking their own lives after dealing with peer harassment. But peer victimization, harassment and bullying — despite their ubiquity — have been abating in almost all of the surveys. Suicide, too, is less common. Among 10- to 24- year-olds, the rate declined from 9.24 to 7.21 suicides per 100,000 people from 1991 to 2009.

Every generation of parents is alarmed by the sexual behavior of the young. But the accusations are more misplaced now than ever. 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 percentage of high schoolers who say they have had four or more sexual partners also has declined.

I’ve spoken to a lot of SSA clubs around the country and I always walk away feeling encouraged and inspired by how many intelligent, passionate and committed those young people are to making a positive difference in the world. Yes, that’s just anecdotal and there are plenty of assholes among young people as well. But that’s true of every generation, obviously. Every generation thinks the next generation is terrible (except their own kids, of course, they’re angels. It’s those other people’s children who are the problem). And even the nostalgia was better in the old days.

Seriously, just stop it. Could we even have imagined that there would be such a thing as Gay-Straight Alliance clubs when we were growing up? No one would even have thought to imagine such a possibility. Just like we are less prone to racism than our parents and grandparents were (depending on your age), kids today are much less prone to anti-gay bigotry than our generation. That’s great moral progress. They are fighting the social justice battles of today just as previous generations of young people fought in their day. And that’s a very good thing.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    But which generation do we blame for the unforgivable concatenation of “alright” in lieu of “all right”?

  • subbie

    All well and good, but what are the statistics on lawn incursions?

  • snoeman

    This has been going on in human history forever, figuratively speaking. I still remember this passage from Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World:

    “Every generation worries that educational standards are decaying. One of the oldest short essays in human history, dating from Sumer some 4,000 years ago, laments that the young are disastrously more ignorant than the generation immediately preceding.”

    Nothing new under the sun.

  • sugarfrosted

    @1 Old English. It’s the prefix “al” plus the word “right”. Much as the case “alone” being “al” + “one” (compare to German “allein”). The prefix isn’t commonly used anymore thus the phrase “all right” was born. So oddly you have it backwards. Etymology is weird.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Is it too late to blame them for the apostrophe’s?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    In fact, 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.

    Typical Millenials! They’re too lazy even to commit crimes at the proper rates!

  • daved

    But which generation do we blame for the unforgivable concatenation of “alright” in lieu of “all right”?

    Well, since “The Kids are Alright” was written by Pete Townshend of The Who in 1965, and Pete was born in 1945, we can blame it on The Greatest Generation. And high time, too.

  • daved

    Typical Millenials! They’re too lazy even to commit crimes at the proper rates!

    Nobody is sure why violent crime has come down so dramatically. There are at least half a dozen theories, ranging from easier availability of abortion to a reduction of lead in the environment.

  • eric

    Part of the problem is the conflict between our human bias to treat any news as local to us, and our media’s ability to let us see graphic and grisly cases in numbers porportianal to absolute amount rather than percapita amount. IMO we might intellectually accept the per capita numbers, but because of our social evolution our primate brains are always viewing the media stories and anecdotes in terms of 30- to 100-person groups.

  • John Hinkle

    I bet the incidence of texting while driving is up among young people since the 1980s. And the statistics for listening to crappy music must be through the roof.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    Damned kids these days with their smug, soft lifestyles. Back in my day, we were surrounded by crime, got our girlfriends knocked-up at least every nine months, and smoked two packs a day. And did we complain?

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca composer99

    Logging in to say something insightful about the topic? Nope.

    Just wanted to say “well played” to Modusoperandi and Area Man for some grade ‘A’ material.

  • daved

    Back in my day, we were surrounded by crime, got our girlfriends knocked-up at least every nine months, and smoked two packs a day. And did we complain?

    You bet we did. Frequently.

  • flex

    I’ve been saying for years that I’m impressed with the kids growing up after me.

    And I’d be happy to get out of their way if I could find a way to retire from the workforce now rather than spend the next 20 years in an unrewarding job.

  • raven

    I did an informal survey among my friends about their kid’s lives. We are mostly Boomers so this isn’t Millennials but 20’s and early 30’s somethings.

    Their lives do seem to be harder, not easier than ours were, not that ours were all that easy.

    1. It’s mostly jobs. Jobs come and go. There aren’t many good jobs that pay a middle class salary. A lot of them are minimum wage and part time. Right now, my friend’s daughter who has a good college degree is working 4 part time jobs.

    2. College has gotten ridiculously expensive. I graduated from a good and heavily subsidized state U., debt free (and completely broke.) Those subsidies are long gone and it costs 10 times more.

    This is consistent with what we all know. Economic inequality has been increasing since the 1970’s, regardless of which party is in power, that GINA coeffecient. The stock markets and corporate profits are at record levels. It hasn’t trickled down to the large majority of Americans. The middle class is shrinking and that increases the conflicts among the fault lines in our society as people compete for an ever smaller pie.

  • K.R. Syncanna

    Even IF millennials were the problem, who raised them? They did not appear from a vacuum.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    K.R. Syncanna “Even IF millennials were the problem, who raised them?”

    Exactly. I blame the schools.

  • gog

    Truth is, most trespassers I’ve had to tell to fuck off around the other way (my yard is a known shortcut and the neighboring business has refused to fix their fence; I’m fighting them via the city’s code enforcement. It’s not going well.) have been adults.

  • zippythepinhead

    Now if they only can get off their lazy asses and VOTE!

  • magistramarla

    Ed is right about the GSA groups. I was the teacher/mentor for a GSA group. Most of my student’s peers gave them no problems. It was several of the teachers and administrators in the school who gave them hassles. There were also several of them who were afraid for their lives if their parents were to find out that they were gay before they could leave their parents’ home.

    What irritated me about this was the fact that those teachers, administrators and parents were baby boomers like myself. We grew up at a time when we were fighting for rights and made some big cultural changes. Why is it that so many of my peers became so intolerant?

  • Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    But which generation do we blame for the unforgivable concatenation of “alright” in lieu of “all right”?

    Old fogies. I’m a child of the eighties, and we replaced the tediously overly-long “alright” with the beautifully succinct “aight” ages ago.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    And the statistics for listening to crappy music must be through the roof.

    I’m pretty convinced that paleolithic cave paintings, properly understood, were complaining about exactly this. Heck, half of them were probably complaining about the new cave paintings.

  • freehand

    magistramarla: What irritated me about this was the fact that those teachers, administrators and parents were baby boomers like myself. We grew up at a time when we were fighting for rights and made some big cultural changes. Why is it that so many of my peers became so intolerant?

    .

    Eh? You’ve apparently forgotten that most of our peers hated us for fighting for other people’s rights, or were at least baffled by it. Those other boomers never became intolerant; they never were tolerant.

  • Skip White

    I’m 32 and I’m increasingly finding that old people nowadays are far more rude than when I was young. At least a few times a week, an elderly person will cut in line in front of me at the grocery store, or run their cart into the back of my legs while in the checkout line, or almost crash into my car while cutting across the wide, empty parking lot. Back in my day, we even had better old people! ::shakes fist::

  • Red-Green in Blue

    John Hinkle:

    And the statistics for listening to crappy music must be through the roof.

    Alas yes, happy hardcore and novelty Christmas singles just aren’t what they used to be

  • Red-Green in Blue

    Drat! The comment preview showed the irritating smilies I had inserted and then WP swallowed everything after the first one.

    I was going to say that on the other hand, emoticons have come on by leaps and bounds.