August 11, 2010

Any area where young people live more dangerously than before?

I've been trying to think of some part of life where teenagers and young adults are bucking the overall trend toward greater short-term safety and (over-)protection that began in the early-mid 1990s. But I can't come up with any good counter-examples off the top of my head. Any ideas?

Actually, let me update that to include any greater exposure to the tougher aspects of real life. It's not just dangerous things that kids are more protected from than before, like violence and drug use, but also having a job, being in the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, or playing challenging video games (ones that are "Nintendo hard").

I emphasize short-term safety because I'm convinced that insulating yourself from the stressors of the real world here and now ultimately weakens and endangers your robustness to them. (See the afterword to the new paperback edition of Taleb's The Black Swan for more on this piece of lost wisdom.) Someone who has never gotten into a fight of any kind probably lives in a world where full-out brawls have become more rare -- but once he does encounter that obstacle, he'll come away much more banged up than someone who has had the occasional exposure to fights. Someone who has been shielded from interactions with exploiters probably lives in a world where these encounters are more rare -- but once they do meet an exploiter, they'll really get taken to the cleaners, like Little Red Riding Hood. The only cure for naivete is occasional exposure to real-world dangers.


  1. How about inner city ghettos? Public schools where the majority of students are minority races.

    I went to a high school that was only 40% white. I got made fun of for being white a couple of times. There were fights out in the parking lot all the time. That was only 5-6 years ago.

  2. Agnostic. How do you comment about studies that show traditional dating has gone out the door; and that hooking up is now the norm in colleges?

  3. Search my blog at the top for "hook-up." I wrote a post a couple months ago.

  4. If you accept the view that exposure to violent or sexually explicit material can be harmful or dangerous to youth, then this might be one area where kids these days live "more dangerously" than in the past. When I was an adolescent (early 80s), the quest for porn was fraught with risk, and a certain status attached to kids who were allowed to see R-rated movies. Nowadays, I don't think parents have much practical control over the sort of entertainment their kids consume, and they see it all.

    I know this might not be what you have in mind, but it's the only point that I can think of.

  5. The Brazilian city Sao Paulo has a high number of homicides, and this number has only been rising.

    Look for "Tabela 2", it shows the number of homicides by 100,000 habitants with fireguns (Arma de fogo) and other kinds of homicides (Demais HomicĂ­dios).

    The data is a little old, but it shows a steady increasing, and I doubt it has changed (I left there in 2006).

    I don't see the consequences you may expect from this rise in violence, but this may be caused by the influence that American culture has over Brazil.

  6. Only someone who has been well established for decades could suppose the world is now safe or even safer.

    The world is especially dangerous for any young person looking to get established for the very first time.

    You might be projecting backwards to times when your own world was volatile and uncertain, concluding that such was 'the spirit of the times.'

  7. "Only someone who has been well established for decades could suppose the world is now safe or even safer."

    He's not talking about the world, but the US in general. It's a national thing, the cycles are not corrolated with the world.

    Statistically in the US crime has gone down and has followed the UPs and DOWNS, that our host blogger mentions. But I don't know if this isn't just because the crime is still out there but the people are so aware of it, they simply don't go outside as much. And also, we spend a fortune now on anti-crime measures, that we didn't in the rising crime period from 1959 to 1979.


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