Survey Says?! Today’s teens looking pretty good.


On Friday (Oct 1/09) I was in Fort McMurray, Alberta (lots of trucks and denim there)  singing for a couple hundred Catholic school teachers as part of their annual Faith Day. I’ve sung at several Faith Day conferences over the years and they are always a riot. Typically the teachers are so thrilled to get a singer rather than lecturer –  I can do no wrong.

Reginald Bibby

But the keynote speaker first thing in the morning was sociologist/author Reginald Bibby whose recent book, The Emerging Millennials | How Canada’s Newest Generation is Responding to Change and Choice, chronicles and interprets his findings from several recent national youth surveys.

Bibby was a very engaging speaker and the findings were fascinating.  He started by saying that the elderly have always been anxious about the youth and then offered this quote from 400 B.C.:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise… They contradict their parents, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” -Plato quoting Socrates

Imagine! Children crossing their legs. Shame.

Anyway, Bibbey went on to report the disappointing news that the surveys indicate: this current generation of teenagers are actually a pretty good bunch – certainly better looking than their parents were.

Below are the 11 general findings from the research. I can’t remember much of the supporting details – you’ll have to get the book. Remember, these are general trends.  There are many concerns, and plenty of kids who fall through the cracks, but the over-all report is encouraging.

Todays teens:

Are decent: the surveys indicate a fairly high level of respect for authority, friendship loyalty, regard for parents, civic responsibility, acceptance of difference.

Love their friends and music: no surprise here.  But statistically, teens report having more significant friendships than previous generations.

Tech toys – new means to old ends: concern about teens use of technology may not be well founded. Teens use of technology has made them more, not less, socially connected with a resulting sense of well-being that comes from knowing and being known. Curiously, drug, alcohol and tobacco use are down. Research indicates that kids have so many good interests (partially as a result of technology) that they simply have less time for the more destructive ones.

Have said ‘goodbye’ to monoculture: teens have great respect for difference and nuance. More likely to pursue genuine interest rather than following trends.  Have healthy tolerance and genuine curiosity for cultural/ ideological idiosyncrasies other than their own.

Teen/parent relations are the best in decades: Most teens report friendship with parents and see them as worthy guides.

Enjoy school: This surprised me.  Teens report liking teachers, enjoying learning and end enjoying school years.

Quality of life: there is significant drop in reports of depression and violence. Most teens report that core needs, (relational, health and safety) are met and many feel there is opportunity to pursue dreams and wishes.

Are into relationships more than sex: friendship is paramount to this generation. Sexual activity is pretty much where it has been for decades but profoundly more responsible than say… the 60’s and 70’s.  Teens feel more empowered to engage or not at their own will – less pressure than previous decades.

Are morally flexible but have definite no-nos: most teens regard sex between those in a caring relationship to be okay. But tend to look down on casual sex, and definitely condemn extra-marital sex.  Teens feel fairly negative about divorce. Child abuse and racial discrimination rank among the highest in terms of what teens consider morally unacceptable.

Post-religious / pre-spiritual: teens report less religious/institutional affiliation and commitment but keen interest in spirituality. (understood that spirituality is pretty hard to define)

Teens are buoyant about the future: teens report bright hopes and dreams in their future. Generally positive and even enthusiastic.

millenialsSo there you have it. Bibby says there is lots to legitimately worry about –  for those of us so inclined. But he encouraged us to give credit where it is due. These kids are great he says. Let’s keep calling out and enabling their best.

You can check out Bibby’s books at his website:

or find his recent book “The Emerging Millennials” HERE

3 thoughts on “Survey Says?! Today’s teens looking pretty good.

  1. Don Tapscott had similar findings in his book “Grown Up Digital.” But one thing that he pointed out, which I like, was that those people who claim that the younger generation have all these problems always use statements like, “I think the younger generation,” or “I feel that teens these days,” and do not have or use any data to back up their claims. Listen carefully the next time you hear someone talk negatively about the younger generation on CBC radio and you’ll see that this is the case.

  2. Hey Steve,
    Interesting and encouraging news. Makes me think of an old song I used to play as a teen that expressed some of our teen-angst. I like how it has been updated (starts at 2:10)… ah the perspectives gained by aging.

    Somehow thanks to Love – maybe The Kids are Alright.

    (point of interest – the drummer is Zach Starkey, son of Ringo … and he’s certainly doing “alright” on that drumkit!)

  3. I have been a Teacher-on-call in high schools in North Vancouver, B.C for 20 years. We “substitutes” have a reputation for seeing and experiencing the worst side of teenage behaviour. But through the years I’ve come to see them very much as they’ve been reported here. Yes, there are problem kids, but by in large they are a wonderful bunch, and even kids who are problems respond amazingly well to constructive responses to their negative behariour. It might be that I’ve grown in my appreciation for the decency of teens over the years because they are getting better, but I suspect it’s not. I think it’s because I am seeing them more and more as they really are. I do believe, however, that our society–parents and teachers especially–have developed a better awareness over the last 20 years about how to encourage the positive traits. I think we’re doing something right. And the teens I work will definitely give me a hopeful feeling about the future of our society. We’re in good hands.

Comments are closed.