June 5, 2010

Young people more well behaved than ever

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?


  1. College freshmen typically don't have driver's licenses

    I would have thought that nearly all do. They may not always have cars with them, however.


  2. Well-behaved and malleable.
    I'm sure they will be wonderful and productive additions to the corporacy.

  3. Just shows how worthless the boomers really are.

  4. "I would have thought that nearly all do. They may not always have cars with them, however."

    In 2008, only 49% of 17 year-olds had driver's licenses, and it's been declining since the late '80s. Probably like 45% now.

    "I'm sure they will be wonderful and productive additions to the corporacy."

    Not if there aren't any jobs left for them due to Baby Boomers glutting the labor market:


  5. cigarette smoking is seen as "low class" or only done by the "super-stupid" kids now. In smaller towns it is more predominant, but in larger suburban high schools, where it is all about being "Better than you," smoking separates the "successful" from the students destined for "red-necked" work.

    anon 1, I agree.

  6. There are several reasons for higher-IQ people to take less risks.

    Getting off "the track" can be very damaging now, as making it out there into the solidly upper-middle class is harder. The lower middle class is being pushed down into the lower class by the global economy, so anything with a vaugue penal risk, is truly dicey to contemplate indeed.

    Prison's reputation as a rape-beating-AIDS-infested hell hole probably also scares many straight.

    There is less trust in a more ethnically diverse society also.

    We are also in a surveillance state when harmless pranks might be recorded and used as evidence against you.

    The police are scarier now than ever, with a more militarized bearing than the friendly town cops who went to church with your parents back in the 70's and 80's.

    Your reputation can follow you now forever, via texting, cell-phone gossip, web-pages, et cetera. If you do something stupid, like letting loose some live chickens in your high school cafeteria in your senior year (like one pal of mine did), you wont become a vaugue legend in your school whose name is forgotten, but a guy who probably gets arrested, the arrest commemorated on dozens of facebook pages, everybody's parents will know, and you get to explain that little incident to people who google your name for the rest of your damned life.

    We might have some wild times again though...........because people are still very capable. If we have a real depression with 20% unemployment and enough folks are desperate, who knows how _genuinely exciting_ things can get.

  7. Another thought on current youth un-recklessness,

    One thing that youths have today that might be both a blessing and a curse is the direct ability to view the pop culture of the past via YouTube.

    It takes a bit confidence to be bold enough to act dangerously. Im sure the hormonal surge that teens get has made most teens in just about every generation in the past feel like they were special. They thought they were the best-looking, smartest, and most talented groups of youths to have ever existed. Now however, a young kid can go to YouTube and find out his favorite musical performer of today (Bieber or whomever) and favorite cultural icon (Robert Pattinson or whateverthefuckhisnameis) really isn't as impressive as KISS was, or Errol Flynn was, et cetera.

    Whiskey, even if you might disagree with some things he has suggested, is really onto something about videogames and young males. I seen a line outside a Gamestop store at almost midnight on a weeknight a month or so ago. Some new game was being released or a sale must have been going on. There they were, all young males, lined up outside a store to by DVD copies of whatever videogame, instead of being lined up to buy tickets to whatever band was hot at the moment. Its definitely different than 1987.

  8. Smoking is also done by the rich and spoiled elites as a sign of rebellion. In fact that try and imitate the low class pretty well.

    - Breeze


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