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