Why do we think teens are engaging in more risky behavior than previous generations when the opposite is true?

People seem to believe that kids today engage in risky behavior at far greater rates than previous generations did but the research shows that the opposite is true. Teens today do drugs, drink alcohol, get pregnant, and smoke cigarettes at lower rates than other teens have for the past thirty years. At the same time, though, people don’t believe that is the case? Why is that?

Part of this is the amount of media attention and awareness that which creates an example of an availability bias. With 24 hour news coverage on multiple channels in addition to social media driving news consumption, sensational stories stand out in our minds and cause us to misperceive actual trends.

The causes of this are also connected to the same factors that cause humans to be very bad at judging risks. Scary stories overwhelm us and make us believe in incorrect ideas.

Below are some interesting resources that provide data which is not sensational but presents some truth on the subject matter.

Today’s Teens are more than alright

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/the-kids-are-more-than-all-right/

Today’s teens use less…than you did

https://www.vox.com/a/teens#year/1972

The rapid decline in teen births is a huge public health success story

http://www.vox.com/2016/6/2/11829864/teen-birth-decline-2015

Teens doing better: Why don’t adults believe it?

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/04/20/stepp.teens.followup/

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