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6/18/17blog post

good news about our kids and teens

Media attention brings an immediacy and intensity to the serious problems confronting our kids. That’s mostly helpful but sometimes results in the mistaken belief that these are the worst of times for kids and families. They’re not.

How about some good news about our children based upon some recently published research?

  1. Bullying. The June 2017 Journal of Pediatrics reported that bullying had decreased significantly over the past 10 years in a large school district in Maryland. Based on a study of a quarter of a million kids, more kids reported feel safe and were bullied less than in previous years. This is consistent with other studies that have documented a significant decline in this serious behavior.

Set clear expectations for appropriate behavior, and enforce consequences misbehavior.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

  1. Teen pregnancy. Twenty-five years ago, there were 117 teen pregnancies for every 1,000 teens. In recent years, that rate has decreased by 50%.  Another added benefit is the substantial decrease in abortions among teens. In 1988, there were 44 abortions for every 1,000 teens. The rate has decreased to 13.5 in recent years.

Teens having babies is bad for the parents and the children. These positive trends have been accomplished because of a greater candor about sexual behavior, and the widespread availability of birth control. These aren’t easy conversations for parents (or kids), but everyone benefits by this more open conversations.

  1.  Safer drivers. Our teens are more responsible and safer drivers. Automobile fatalities for our teens have decreased by about 50% over the past ten years. This is the result of safer cars, strict standards for drinking and driving and more restrictions on teen licenses.

This is yet another example of problems that appear insurmountable but really aren’t. We tolerated and in some ways glamorized drinking alcohol and driving, with disastrous results. Let’s credit Mothers Against Drunk Driving for taking the lead on this issue, an organization started in 1980 by a mom whose daughter was the victim of an accident caused by a drunken driver.

There are lots of other positive trends, including increases in school safety, volunteering and high school graduation rates, and decreases in binge drinking and drug use.

Youth suicide, mental illness, sexual abuse, gun violence, dysfunctional families, etc. are real. These are the challenges that do and should get the attention of the media and all of us. However, these are not insurmountable problems, as evidenced by the tremendous progress we’ve made in lots of other areas.  

Good things happen with awareness, resources, and focused attention. This is one of best of times to be a child in America, and there is no reason that progress can’t continue.