HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Are Our Teens Afraid of Taking a Chance?
Pubdate: Sat, 10 Apr 2004
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Vancouver Sun


Life Is About Risks, but a Recent Mccreary Centre Survey Seems to Show
Today's Teens Are More Inclined to Avoid Them

The youth of today aren't like we were when we were kids. They're all
only interested in drugs, drinking, sex, bullying and driving like

That's a lament commonly heard today. But not just today -- the
ancient Greek poet Homer said something similar (minus the part about
driving like maniacs) about the younger generation in his day, and
complaints about youth stem back at least 4,000 years to the ancient

That young people are out of control seems a truism, then. But that
doesn't make it true, and if a new survey conducted by the McCreary
Centre Society is any indication, complaints about the "wayward"
generation are exaggerated, to say the least.

The centre surveyed 30,500 British Columbia students in Grades 7 to 12
in 2003, asking them about everything from sex to drugs and alcohol to
suicide. This marks the third time the centre has conducted the survey
(previous surveys were completed in 1992 and 1998), and on most
indicators, youth are engaging in less risky behaviours than young
people were just a few years ago.

Less young people are having sex and, of those who do, more are using
condoms and other methods of birth control. That has translated into
less kids contracting sexually transmitted diseases and less girls
becoming pregnant.

The rate of teen cigarette smoking has declined dramatically from 1998
and 1992, and fewer youth use alcohol. Marijuana use has also declined
from 1998, although the percentage of kids who smoke marijuana today
is higher than it was in 1992.

Drinking and driving has decreased significantly over the past five
years, as have the number of injuries from car accidents. Less youth
report being physically and sexually abused and less have been the
subjects of bullying.

As a result of these improvements, most teens report that they're in
good physical and mental condition, and the majority feel safe at
school, feel close to their families, and plan to pursue higher education.

There are a few causes for concern -- the survey reports that more
youth are overweight than before, that Internet safety has become an
issue, and that discrimination based on race and sexual orientation
continue to be a problems -- but, overall, the survey suggests that
today's youth can expect a rosy future.

That's certainly not what we're used to hearing. The problem, of
course, is that good kids -- or good people of any age -- generally
don't make news. The news is about conflict and conflict requires that
people break the rules, so we hear, perhaps too often, about teenagers
being killed in car accidents, through bullying or through drug abuse.

The news is also about what's new, what's exceptional, and the survey
confirms that troubled kids are the exception. For anyone who cares
about the future of our kids and our country, that's undeniably good

Still, if you want to quibble, you could say that the survey reveals
something much less edifying: Our kids' penchant for eschewing risky
behaviour might not, in fact, be such a good thing.

After all, life is about taking risks. People who succeed in life, and
in particular, people who excel in their chosen fields, are those that
take risks. No one ever developed a thriving business, or made a
groundbreaking scientific discovery, or wrote great music, without
going out on a limb and, in some cases, without risking everything.

The concern, then, is that our risk- averse teens might be afraid to
take chances, chances that lead to greatness. That's a legitimate
concern, although it's certainly not clear from the survey that the
youth of today are averse to all risks.

There's little to be gained by taking risks with alcohol or drugs or
sex, so our kids might just have figured out, better than we did when
were their age, which risks to take and which to avoid. And that most
youth are interested in pursuing further education suggests that
they're not mindless sheep, but are planning great things for the future.

The next time you hear about a car accident involving teenagers, or a
bullying incident, or a teenage drug overdose, it's worth remembering
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