The 2009 results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey came out this week, and as I predicted here they show that wild behavior is either what it was in 2007 or lower. For most things like sex, violence, and vehicle safety, that makes nearly 20 years of decline in how wild high schoolers are. (Drug use started declining in the late '90s.)
Flipping through the statistics, the largest change I see from 2007 and indeed throughout the past 20 years is cigarette smoking. In 2009, for the first time only a minority of students, 46%, had ever tried smoking -- even one or two puffs -- down from 70% in 1991. We're in a different world from "Smokin' In the Boys Room."
During the past 20 years of safe times, STDs rose faster among Baby Boomers than young people, and they certainly smoke more than young people too. I'll bet they are more likely to play in a band too, even if it's just a local bar on Wednesday nights. Crime is still a youth thing, but it's one that hardly any young people actually engage in, so that's not going to save the "wild and crazy kids" image. College freshmen typically don't have driver's licenses and spend most of their time under self-imposed house arrest playing video games, while 50-somethings are at least out and doing something. Has there ever been another time in human existence when it was the middle-aged who were more out-of-control than the teenagers?