Trends Among Today’s Teenagers
The HBO series ‘Euphoria’ has triggered a closer look into reckless behavior among today’s teenagers. This recent New York Times article, “The ‘Euphoria’ Teenagers are Wild. But Most Real Teenagers Are Tame.” refers to Generation Z as not the reckless generation portrayed in the series, but as the “cautious generation”. Gen Z is actually growing up more slowly and more responsibly than popular media depicts.
The article points out three significant trends among these cautious teens: 1) teens are having less sex; 2) drug use is declining; and 3) suicide is a growing worry. Other noteworthy trends include the decline of alcohol use, as well as alarming growth in anxiety and depression among teens.
My daily observations, conversations and research among teens support these trends. Many teens are not yet dating, and most avoid drugs and alcohol to keep their minds clear for optimal academic and athletic performance. Unfortunately, many know someone who has attempted or succeeded in suicide, which is so prevalent that it’s often part of carpool conversations.
One of the reasons for high rates of anxiety, I believe, is that this generation spends more time at home screening and less time out socializing in person. Most teens are staying home more because “why bother to go out” when they can socialize virtually from the comfort of their own beds. Teens in my insight community say they are often home alone with multiple screens: watching YouTube videos, playing video games, texting, on social media, and mastering all simultaneously.
This lack of physical interaction may be a driving force in less sex, drugs and alcohol use, but the lack of human interaction causes more isolation, leading to other issues like anxiety and depression. This is one factor leading to anxiety and depression and, in increasingly more cases, higher suicide rates; the suicide rate is at its highest level in 20 years. Excessive screening in isolation (especially on social media) causes teens to worry and to feel more anxious about themselves, the world and their future. Several girls in a recent focus group stated they wished they were growing up without smartphones. The constant information overload stresses them out and makes them feel anxious.
What can Generation X and Y do to support the mental health of Generation Z? It’s critical to get our teens out of the house socializing in healthy ways and to gather with friends face-to-face. One way is by employing these ambitious teens, as high school and college students are eager to work in summer jobs and internships. Another way is for them to work or participate in camp and sports to keep them active and off their phones, as a part of a group or team. Exploring the arts is a great way to connect with those who share passions beyond screens. However you choose to engage this generation, encourage teens to connect with others face-to-face and to openly communicate with a trusted individual about their heartfelt emotions, on good days and bad.