The kids today! When I was a lad…
Every generation of old people gripes about the youngin’s, how they are lazier today and don’t know how good they got it.
Of course that’s rubbish, and it’s been rubbish for most of the history of elder complaints of the younger generation. Does Socrates sound familiar when he says this?–
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Well, when I was a wee whippersnapper, children were not as smart, had worse health, lived shorter lives, were less literate and numerate, lived in a country that had just legalized racial equality but was still hostile to gays. Oh, how I pine for the golden days of yore!
In yet another demonstration of progress, researchers find that kids today smoke and drink less. The also don’t do drugs as much (though marijuana use is increasing; more on that below).
“Every year, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.” The MTF is done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Many of the results of the 2013 MTF were quite heartening.
- “Alcohol use among teens remains at historically low levels.”
- Only “9.6 percent of students surveyed by MTF were current
(past-month) cigarette smokers—the lowest teen smoking has been in the history of the survey.”
- “Abuse of the opioid pain reliever Vicodin has shown a marked decrease in the last 10 years, now measured at 5.3 percent for high school seniors, compared to 10.5 percent in 2003.”
- As you can see in the chart below, the trend lines for nearly all drugs are headed downward in the past 20 years.
However, the 2013 MTF did note that marijuana use is increasing. This isn’t surprising as marijuana is now legal in some states and will likely be more and more accepted, both by the law and society. Therefore I am not optimistic about future trends in teen marijuana use. Also, the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines is quite troubling. Ironically, it’s the adults that fuel these trends, not our miscreant children. As prescription drug use increases by parents, abuse increases with children stealing these medications for “recreational use.” And the grown-ups in state houses relaxing marijuana laws are a primary cause of teens thinking marijuana is neither harmful–the governor signed the bill into law, right?–or illegal.
Nonetheless, historically low levels of tobacco and alcohol use among teens is quite heartening.