Magazine article Insight on the News

Generation Gap Widens; Films, Songs Don't Help

Magazine article Insight on the News

Generation Gap Widens; Films, Songs Don't Help

Article excerpt

Things haven't changed much since parents asked, `What's the matter with kids today?.' in Bye Bye Birdie. A study finds parents mere perplexed than ever about the younger generation.

American adults remain uneasy about the current generation of children, according to a new study by Public Agenda, a New York research firm. More than half of adults think "kids these days" are lazy, rude or spoiled. In one particularly harsh finding, 58 percent of adults say that the next generation will be of little consequence to the nation -- or will make America "a worse place" to live.

Irresponsible parents, not economic or social stresses, are the culprits, say half the adults surveyed for Kids These Days '99: What Americans Really Think About the Next Generation. The report, funded by the Advertising Council and Ronald McDonald House Charities, includes some good news, however. An overwhelming majority of adults -- 89 percent -- believe that "given enough attention and the right kind of guidance, almost all teenagers can get on track." Only 7 percent of adults think that "some teens are beyond the point where they can be helped."

The top three remedies, adults say, are better public schools, more after-school activities and flexible work hours so parents can be with their children. These views, collected by telephone from 1,005 respondents, mirror a similar survey taken in 1996, notes Public Agenda Executive Director Deborah Wadsworth.

"It was very distressing [to see that] concerns have not diminished, even though we are living in what appears to be very prosperous times," says Wadsworth. "They don't derive from screaming headlines or immediate tragedy" like the recent shootings in Littleton, Colo.

Most Americans fault modern parents as materialistic and irresponsible. Nevertheless, a large majority -- 78 percent -- of respondents agree that "it's harder to be a parent today," listing social problems such as substance abuse, gangs, rampant sex and violence in movies and TV and inferior public schools.

As it did in 1996, the new Public Agenda survey includes the views of more than 300 teenagers who present a rosier view of their lives. Large majorities of teens say they have trustworthy parents, adults and friends, and 66 percent say that "faith in God" is important to them. Fifty percent of teens are "usually happy," although 42 percent are "bored" almost every day.

But even teens register disappointment with their parents: In 1996, 81 percent of teens said they could "always trust my parents to be there for me when I need them. …

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