It's True: Teens Really Are Going to Be All Right

Filed under: In The News, Opinions


The kids WILL be OK. Credit: Corbis

For parents of teens, it seems like every day brings more news of sex, drugs, bullying and stalking on the Internet. It makes you want to freeze your tweens and tots before they enter this land of the lost.

But, fret not. It's just a misconception and Hollywood, or the movie "The Kids are All Right," is not just a fantasy. It's really true, teens are going to be OK, says CNN columnist Laura Stepps.

Stepp points to several studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show teens are doing better now than they were a decade ago. They're getting pregnant less, saying "no" to smoking and boozing and fewer kids are committing suicide. All in all, they're acting more responsible on a number of levels.

Problem is, parents don't believe it's true.

"Every time I talk to parents, I am moved by how few know this," writes Stepp. "Or, if they've read about it, how they don't believe it.

Peter Benson, president of the Search Institute, a youth development think tank, tells CNN he also runs into this skepticism.

"If we did a poll of American parents," he says, "and asked, 'How many times have you seen research about adolescent pregnancy showing that kids are being more responsible?' The vast majority would say, 'I've never seen that.' But if you ask them how many times they've seen stories about kids sexting pornography, they'll say, 'I see something on that every day.' "

Several markers of teen's well-being add up to create a brighter picture, says Stepp.

According to a newly-released by the National Center for Health Statistics, 39 of every 1,000 girls ages 15-19 gave birth in 2009, a historic low. Experts attribute this in large part to the wider availability of information about and access to reliable contraception, as well as a small decline in the number of teens having sex.

Stepp points to other positive markers found in the CDC reports: Fewer teens drive while drinking, leading to fewer car crashes, and firearm deaths and the number of high-school students who carry a weapon have declined.

So why are so many parents so very worried?

"A mother myself, I understand how easy it is to be discouraged by the almost daily news reports of youthful misbehavior," she writes. "Journalists and TV hosts regularly interview social scientists on the problem du jour, and those experts reach back into their university training where they learned what amounts to a delinquency model of adolescence. We may need to rethink that."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.