Kids These Days…

December 5th, 2008

Finally, scientific proof that what the graying generation has been saying for years is true.

“Researchers compared responses from teens in 1975 and 2006, asking questions about their qualities and abilities. The study, published last month, found that today’s kids consider themselves to be far more intelligent and capable than their 1970s counterparts, and more likely to report being “completely satisfied” with themselves.”

The study also says that 93% of teens feel good about themselves. I want to know how this is possible. It’s amazing, but such an impressively large percentage. I mean, I think it is good for kids to grow up with healthy self-esteem. As someone who has dealt with and still does occasionally deal with self-esteem and body image issues, I know how debilitating a negative self-image can be. But, it seems statistically improbable for so many young Americans to be personally satisfied.

The article suggests that the extreme satisfaction might be too much of a good thing. Over-confidence can lead to attitudes of entitlement and laziness.

What do you think?

22 Responses to “Kids These Days…”

  1. Tim on December 6, 2008 10:16 am

    Notice they didn’t say that kids ARE actually smarter, they just think they are. I like to think of myself as smart, well maybe a little, and extremely insecure. 🙂 And I wish I was joking…

    I have noticed however that most of the time I tend to underestimate myself and a little bit of confidence would actually help me accomplish a lot more. But I can’t stand people that feel entitled to everything, even if they claim to have “earned” it.

  2. DataJack on December 6, 2008 12:00 pm

    That does seem suspiciously high. I wonder if the same questions were asked to the two groups. Also, I see you are going to the next Drinking Skepchickally in SF. Have fun there!

  3. Hao on December 6, 2008 3:06 pm

    If I was a part of the survey, and had to think about my self-esteem trends, I know that I would weigh being down a little more, just because the events that cause me to be that way stand out a bit more in my mind. However, I do know that usually when I am feeling good, I feel good by a larger degree than how I feel when I’m not. So I think that you can’t just make it 2 choices (feeling good or not).

    I guess what I’m saying is that this didn’t really seem to take the entire spectrum into account. There are people who feel too good, even when they shouldn’t be, and there are (unfortunately) people who are suicidally depressed. I can understand a vast majority of teens falling in the “pretty good” or “doing alright” category than lumping them all into “feeling good” (I’m only 20, myself).

  4. Chales-A Rovira on December 6, 2008 9:04 pm

    While women struggle with body image more than men worry about their penis size (and look what that spawned in everybody’s inbox,) I feel that the average teen or college student is far better for being less burdened with the same crap that we burdened with in our youth.

    I agree with you that smugness and undeserved feelings of entitlement are putting the young people at risk.

    But I would argue that we are all at risk of being subject to the same feelings of entitlement and superiority at belonging to whatever “in group” (be it Anglo superiority, [a Canadian condition and a Francophone complaint,] or white supremacy, [an American equivalent,] or any other existential condition, that just “is” rather than being earned.

    Color, creed and/or religion don’t enter into it except after the fact. Body shape don’t enter into it except after the fact.

    The ideal body shape is the result of a mixture of experience, society and anatomy, and anatomy always wins.

    In the sixteenth century, women were supposed to aspire to an entirely different body shape than they did in the seventeenth century.

    The men were were shaping themselves in the same way, with bodange and corsetage.

    Idiocy seems to have been the universal constant here.

    There is nothing wrong with people being happy with who they are, just as long as its doesn’t get in the way of their staying happy with who they’re going to become.

    “Tempus fugit” after all…

  5. Cuddy Joe on December 8, 2008 10:40 am

    I think part of it is that the current decade 2000-10 has been far calmer, far more stable than the decade 1970-80 (when I was age 15-25). I spent my high school years watching the portraits of former classmates hung on the wall in the library as they died one by one in Viet Nam. When I saw my draft number I didn’t even bother to apply for college and then had to scramble when the draft was ended (but not the war yet). There was Watergate, gas lines around the block, and general tumult in all areas of society.

    If my 13 yr old daughter’s experience is typical, public school educators don’t challenge students nearly as much previously. As a HS senior with an A- avg, three varsity letters, and while working full time as a night shift watchman, I was called in by the school counselor where it was suggested I could do better. My daughter is a straight A student, but never has homework, doesn’t take notes in class. I suspect that today’s kids are given nothing but opportunities to succeed but never allowed to fail, except in the most extreme cases.

    We would also do well to check the creds of those doing the survey or poll, to question the claim made. Skewing such polls to promote a hidden agenda has become an art form.

  6. terra210 on December 12, 2008 12:58 pm

    I would imagine that in a world where your self-esteem is worn in public via social media, that it is almost a requirement to “state” you feel good about yourself. There is a constant, detached, self-marketing present these days. That said, I hope it saying makes it true for many. It can work this way.

  7. andrewz12 on December 13, 2008 2:24 am

    Interesting question and I meekly disagree on mere logic. Feelings of entitlement and laziness can be the result of many other processes, experiences, feelings, perspectives, etc.

    Bad self-esteem could also lead to laziness in a passive-aggressive way. Bad self-esteem could also lead someone to embrace a less demanding way of life, entrusting themselves to be wholly dependent on someone else and eventually feeling entitled to be supported by that person. (Not that I’m a psychologist or anything like like… I’m just following the thought to possible ends.)

    Does high self-esteem in-and-of-itself lead to entitlement and laziness. I’d like to believe not. It can, if properly groomed, provide the confidence and determination to succeed and to let oneself be challenged with the confidence of prevailing, surviving, etc.

    And, self-confidence can lead to clearer decision-making. Instead of taking the emotionally easy way out, psychological reflexes can be developed to make more effective decisions because illogical fears and negativites do not exist.

    So, it’s all about balance, methinks. Hormones, peers, problems at home, advertising all contribute to making teen life potentially very confusing. But successfully focusing, motivating, and shaping kids may have had an effect on this new batch of bio-matter units. 😉

    Maybe the problems of the past are no longer the problems of the present.

  8. sonic on December 13, 2008 6:19 am

    The article fails to mention if todays youth have better health and can demonstrate more aptitude than the youth of the 70’s.
    This is needed info. to make any judgement.

  9. Andrew on December 14, 2008 8:49 pm

    This is just a question: Do you believe scientists can give a “proof” ?

  10. Colin Peacock on December 17, 2008 11:25 pm

    Fantastic! My only worry would be that in exchange for higher esteem, we’re lowering our expectations of kids. Take, for example, modern grading systems in schools. For example, the recent removal of Fs in some states in favour of Hs. Though I suppose that the new system merely encourages those who fail to try agian.

    In any case, I think it’s fantastic that we’re taking a lesson from Louis Pasteur.

  11. Taylor Sherman on December 21, 2008 12:18 am

    Entitlement is a good thing. Over-confidence is a good thing. In my experience being a little cocky is a great thing in achievers – a lot of entrepreneurs are this way, despite many working people’s assumption that it is unable to be proven valid in the long run.

    Laziness however is very bad. So I think being not satisfied is a good thing, however the key is coupling non-satisfaction with the knowledge that a person is able to reach their goals, or that there is a brighter future ahead.

    The idea that people have to be chronically dissatisfied, however, is a “poverty mentality” belief rooted in fear and is ultimately a flight of fantasy. The idea is to be dissatisfied enough to want to change, but to know when “enough is enough”. It seems that this subtle balance eludes many, though…

  12. Leon on December 21, 2008 6:51 pm

    “it seems statistically improbable for so many young Americans to be personally satisfied.”

    Would it be possible to create a place where everyone is satisfied or do you think satisfaction comes at a price for ‘someone’?

  13. DaveFriedel on December 22, 2008 2:04 am

    It’s definitely different being a teen in the Vietnam era than today. I’m not sure how accurate measuring “happiness” is, even with a poll. Happiness is relative to one’s own experience, which 30 years ago was very different. There were far less external stimuli (ok, ok when I was a kid in the 70’s) to preoccupy. Preoccupication with work or games or anything else are things that can make a teen happy, but are easy to confuse with “being” happy.

    So I think in 75, it sucked being a teen and there was nothing to do except hang out and face it. Today there are XBoxes, the Internet, after school activities, and on and on and on to preoccupy. Doesn’t mean that teen is truly happier about who they are… but perhaps just in enough denial to think so.

  14. Frank Monaldo on December 27, 2008 5:12 pm

    Dear Kiki,

    Your post reminds me of a story, perhaps apocryphal. According to the story, American students do not do as well as Korean (or maybe it was Japanese) students in mathematics at the same grade level. However, in the estimation of their own math ability, American students far exceed the foreign ones. Regardless of actual skills, Americans students have won the self-esteem battle. We think well of ourselves.



  15. excalipoor on December 28, 2008 1:58 pm

    Isn’t self-esteem can be mistaking with ego? I mean they might be detecting their ego instead of real self-esteem? Am I wrong?

  16. anon on December 28, 2008 4:07 pm

    Sample size and physical distribution of the sampling are pretty important. In the linked to ‘article’ no information is given with which one can find out this information. Without this data the conclusions, and discussion, are irrelevant.

  17. Robin Rane' on January 2, 2009 2:11 pm

    Hi! Found you on twitter, this is a great website~
    I think looking at parenting of the 1970’s and parenting now may be the answer…I was a teen in the 70’s and honestly, I parent in a completely different way than my own parents. More info. out there for me than for them…just a thought

  18. MadScientist on January 4, 2009 1:59 am

    Do people get awards for stating the obvious these days?

    Being a natural born skeptic I remember cringing at unsubstantiated phrases like “we’re number one!” at least since my early teens. “Number one in what”? I would ask, and “why are you number one?”

    I do not see this phenomenon as a matter of overconfidence but a matter of ignorance and arrogance. If it is any more widespread now than it was during my teens in the 1980’s I suspect it is because society may be tolerating more nonsense these days.

    This arrogance is dangerous though. I used to spend my weekends as a volunteer at a ‘Science Center’ which, like many, was inspired by the San Francisco Exploratorium. I would create exhibits and spend hours, if not days, thinking about concise words to explain the phenomenon being demonstrated. I took great pride in the fact that all my gadgets actually demonstrated the phenomenon which they claimed to demonstrate. Some people have asked me why I don’t take any ‘shortcuts’ and fake some demonstrations – after all, who would know? My response has always been that there is absolutely no reason to lie about anything in science and that only the feebleminded would attempt to fool people and claim that they are engaged in science education. This sort of attitude that it is somehow OK to fool people in the name of education is what I believe is bred and commonly accepted by ignorant people who have an unearned self-confidence. [As to ‘who would know’ – why, any educated person would know. On the increasingly rare occasions that I wander through a ‘science center’ I often walk up to a faked exhibit and explain the scam in detail to anyone interested and also try to explain what was meant to be demonstrated and how it can actually be done with little effort – or at least with just as much effort as perpetrating the scam.]

  19. Eric on January 5, 2009 2:40 pm

    Off the top of my head I could see two reasons for the 93% figure. Either they used a very small sample size and asked the questions just before a holiday or break or they asked the same questions to the 2006 teens as they did the 1975 kids without updating the language used to phrase the questions.

    I agree with you that the result seems statistically improbable.

  20. logan on January 5, 2009 4:34 pm

    Is there also a corresponding downward trend in the rates of teens taking anti-depressants, teen-suicide, and other personal disorders (body-image, anorexia, etc) and social disorders (criminal activity, non-relational sexual promiscuity, violent behaviour)? One would hope “feel better about myself” lead to better self-care and care for others. Is this reality?

  21. Magnifico Giganticus on January 7, 2009 8:45 am

    Young Americans feeling entitled and being lazy!? Why I never!

  22. Jon Klement on January 13, 2009 7:55 pm

    “The article suggests that the extreme satisfaction might be too much of a good thing. Over-confidence can lead to attitudes of entitlement and laziness.”

    As a public school teacher with 8 years experience, I can tell you that it’s real and it’s getting worse.

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