Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kids, Sex, and the NY Times

The article was titled, "The Myth of Rampant Teenage Promiscuity" by Tara Parker-Pope.

"The news is troubling, but it’s also misleading. While some young people are clearly engaging in risky sexual behavior, a vast majority are not. The reality is that in many ways, today’s teenagers are more conservative about sex than previous generations."

The entire article seemed to me to so badly miss the point of what is really happening with kids that it was easy to dismiss it. But then I hit this line, “But so many people think we’re morally in trouble, in a downward spiral and teens are out of control. It’s very difficult to convince people otherwise.”

While I for one appreciate that there are many kids who have not gone down the path of irresponsible, casual and carefree sexual expression, I am deeply grieved that there are some, perhaps most, researchers and newspaper reporters (even with the venerable NY Times!) who take small slices of recent data and make global statements telling us that everything's alright. That bothers me... that actually gets me pretty fired up.

Here's a few facts:

Princeton and Cornell (2006) studied their own kids, freshman, and determined that 1 in 5 of the girls admitted to self-injury (essentially cutting), and 1 in 7 freshman boys. A little over a decade ago when we first started talking about self-injury, it was approximately 1 in 288 of all females and zero males!

Center for Disease Control (March, 2008) reported that 25% of all girls nationally between 14 and 19 had at least one STD... and that was what was reported through the medical community, so it is certainly worse, especially for boys.

Around 2000 Dr. Lester Thurow, MIT professor, reported that "parents now spend 40% less time with their children than they did 30 years ago."

Are things changing? Are kids more secure, supported, nurtured culture-wide? Are teachers more freed up by our expectations that they have the time, energy and incentives to deeply care about each student? Are coached more trained and convinced that the developmental psyche and needs of a fragile child are more important that winning, especially before high school? Are parents as a rule today more self-aware and healthier than the last crop of parents? Are media influencers and executives more committed to protecting the tender minds of our kids than a generation ago?

Do we use kids less now than we did, say, twenty years ago? Or fifty years ago?

Come on, we all know the answer. We all know, and have even personally experienced, the profound agony of being wounded by adults that were supposed to be grown ups. And its worse for today's kids growing up; lots, lots worse.

Come on, NY Times, let's see if you have the courage to actually look deeply into the eyes and into the souls of today's young and tell me that they're better off, more nurtured, and "more conservative" and healthier than previous generations. I dare you.