America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

Synopsis

The media's presentation suggests that American teenage culture today is the most violent, sexual, and amoral youth culture in history. In this book, Nichols and Good deconstruct the negative images held by large numbers of adults. Recognizing that many teenagers are left by adults to socialize themselves and the consequences of this "careless indifference," the authors' goal is to influence a more positive view leading to stronger social policies and better services, resources, and programs to meet the needs of America's youth.

Unique features of America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference include:

• powerful analytic lenses used to revisit typical depictions of youth;

• a wealth of information brought to bear on understanding teenagers' behavior; and

• consideration of a broad range of adolescent behaviors across critical socializing settings.

The book begins with a discussion of the continuing myth of adolescence--how and why youth are devalued, and an overview of current beliefs about youth drawn from two 1990s Public Agenda Polls. This is followed by chapters on youth and the media, and the pressures that youth face in various dimensions of their lives. Topics include youth violence; the sex lives of teenagers; tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and teens; healthy living and decision making; working teens; and youth and education. The concluding chapter pulls together themes generated throughout the book and provides examples of policies that would underscore the value of viewing youth as a social investment. General guidelines are provided for teachers, parents, policymakers, and citizens to facilitate responding to youth in meaningful, proactive ways that improve the quality of life for teenagers and the broader society.

Excerpt

Since 1998, we have been collecting examples of the ways in which the media negatively exaggerates and oversimplifies the lives of today's youth. The media's presentation of youth falsely suggests that youth today are the most violent, sexual, and amoral youth culture in history. Given such negative stories, it's not surprising that many adults report in various polls that youth are lazy and dangerous. Concurrently, we have also been researching youth's behavior to document actual rates of violence, educational accomplishments, and so forth. As our library of examples has grown, so has our resolve to put forth a more appropriate image of youth: that they are better than commonly depicted and deserve to be viewed as a social priority. There are many media examples of how youth's bad behavior is exaggerated but there are also notable examples of teens' prosocial contributions that the media and many adults ignore. This imbalance needs to be addressed, and we write this book because we want more adults to recognize and value the positive contributions of youth.

One goal in writing this book is to deconstruct the negative images of American teenagers held by large numbers of adults, and to influence a more positive view of youth. We do not suggest, in general, that society harbors a strong active dislike, but rather a careless indifference toward youth in general. Many adults simply do not think about adolescents in a knowledgeable or careful way. Yet when they do think of youth, they do so in terms of averages. For example, as we illustrate in chapter 4, using averages to describe the sexual behavior of youth is misleading because youth vary widely in their attitudes toward and knowledge about sex. Similarly, as we describe in chapter 8, average student performance in achievement is highly mis-

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