For the parents of adolescents, there is good news and bad news. The good news, unearthed in a survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is that today’s high school students are notably resistant to all sorts of hazardous and unwholesome activities, from sex to smoking.
The bad news? This report will make it a lot harder to gripe about kids being spoiled, out of control and generally not up to the impeccably high standards of conduct established by previous generations.
Online porn and increasingly raunchy popular entertainment, it’s often assumed, have obliterated modesty and restraint among youngsters. In fact, just 41 percent of today’s high school kids have had sex — compared with 47 percent in 2013 and 54 percent in 1991. The proportion that is sexually active fell from 34 percent to 30 percent in the past two years.
In 1991, more than half of kids drank at least once a month; today, only one in three does.
They are not replacing beer with pot: The number who get high has also shrunk For every five kids who smoked cigarettes in 1999, only one does today. About one in four, however, uses electronic cigarettes and other “vaping” products.
All this should not be completely unexpected, given the noticeable decline of teen pregnancy, abortion and crime. But it is bound to surprise those who take the coarsening of popular culture to be a malignant influence on young people.
It’s possible that they’ve also been diverted from forbidden fruit by modern technology. It may be that Snapchat beats getting stoned. Modern teens have a lot more ways to avoid boredom.
They also have higher expectations. It could be that their parents’ focus on kids’ self-esteem has sapped their motivation to misbehave. What’s the point? You don’t even get a participation trophy.