By almost any available metric, America is being forced to confront a terrifying reality: Our adolescents and young adults are in dire straits. If our society does not muster the will to meet such an emergency with adequate resources, it will surely have a tremendous impact on our nation for generations to come.
For example, Americans, on average, began having fewer children later in life, when they typically had higher education and more life experience. This, compounded by more forms of media and content that constantly play on our negative news bias by overemphasizing threats to child safety (despite data showing our society is becoming increasingly safer for children), has resulted in young Americans routinely received less and less freedom and independence in which to learn important life skills that create resilience.
With more time to spend with one or two children instead of three or four, and at the same time with more competitive academic and economic prospects, parents became increasingly involved in cultivating a strategic childhood focused on adult success. As the authors point out, this also had the effect of virtually eliminating free play opportunities in which children learn to navigate the world they will one day have to traverse alone, which in turn strengthened their resilience through the repeated experience of chafing Knees – whether literally or figuratively.
I don’t know many Americans who wouldn’t agree that in the age of constant high-speed access, social media has had a profoundly negative impact on society at large, and on our children and young adults in particular. Even so, we have failed to engage in a broader societal discussion about what this reality means for our nation’s future, let alone how we might jump off the fast-moving train that will carry us into a very unattractive future.
Government aside, there also appears to be little appetite for training an appropriate level of resources for the crisis. As in most affairs in our unique for-profit health care system, the bulk of financial investment has been directed toward providing our children with medicines, often medicines that have not proven effective, to make anything other than money for the powerful manufacturing corporations and market them.
Whether we rise to the challenge or not, there will come a day in the not too distant future when this crisis-ridden generation will inherit the institutions of American society. Should they not rise to the challenge, we – until then, the elderly and infirm who will be exposed to the results – will not blame anyone but ourselves for their failure.
Dennis “Mitch” Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of journalistic experience, he has covered the Manatee County government since 2010. A graduate of Shippensburg University, he later served as a Captain in the US Army. click here for his biography. His 2016 collection of short stories, Casting Shadows, has recently been reissued and is available here.