Good news, bad news on behavior of teens

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

There’s good news and bad news, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development.

The good news is fewer teens are engaging in risky behavior such as having sex and drinking alcohol.

The bad news is they’re putting off other adult activities such as getting a job, a drivers license or developing skills they’ll need as independent adults.

While their parents’ generation may have ascribed to the “live fast and die young” strategy, today’s teens are taking it slow.

They’re not necessarily more busy doing homework or taking part in extracurricular activities, and it doesn’t seem to matter where they live or how much money their parents have, according to the study.

Screens are probably a bigger factor, according to researchers, with teens spending time on social media instead of “dragging main” and dating the way previous generations did.

Over-attentive “helicopter parenting” is also thought to be a factor in making the “failure to launch” more common.

The study used 40 years of survey data taken from 8 million teens, ages 13-18 over several decades.

Compared to the early 1990s, of teens surveyed in 2010-16:

• 29 percent of 9th graders had sex, down from 38 percent.

• 29 percent of 8th graders drank alcohol, down from 56 percent.

• 32 percent of 8th graders had worked for pay, down from 63 percent

With data going back to 1976, of 2010-2016 seniors:

• 67 percent drank, down from 93 percent in the earlier era.

• 55 percent worked for pay, down from 76 percent.

• 73 percent had drivers’ licenses, down from 88 percent.

• 63 percent dated, down from 86 percent.

• 62 percent had had sex, down from 68 percent in the early 1990s, the earliest that data was collected.

Are we in danger of producing a generation of 30-year-olds, living in their parents’ basement, playing video games?

Previous generations were forced to grow up through diversity such as the Depression or wars, and we certainly don’t wish those on our children or grandchildren.

The military has traditionally served as a great equalizer, producing maturity in upcoming generations, but changes including an all-volunteer force and efficiencies resulting from technology have reduced the number of active-duty troops.

Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the idea of compulsory national service, both for the good of the country and its future citizens.

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