What's going on with today's teens? The latest news does not present a pretty picture. Never has there been a generation of kids who are as badly behaved, or as sexually aware and active, as this one.
Consider that in the United States last year three million crimes were committed in the country's 85,000 schools. Nine percent of eighth graders carry a gun, knife, or club to school at least once a month, and nearly 150,000 students bring handguns to school every day. And don't think they're not planning to use it since 20 percent of students said they believed it was OK to kill someone if they stole something from you. Nor are underage criminals limited to the United States. In Britain, the Observer reports that an astonishing half of all teenagers have committed a crime by the age of 15 and a third of 14-year-olds have vandalized property. Most studies show that the average age for first time intercourse in the United States is currently 13.2 for boys and 14.6 for girls.
A truly staggering 35 percent of young women become pregnant in the United States at least once before they reach the age of 20 (80 percent are unmarried), and every day 8,000 teenagers in the U.S. become infected by a sexually transmitted disease. This year alone nearly 3 million teens will become infected.
How could our kids be this screwed up? To be sure there are many causes. We could for example blame the axis of evil-Madonna, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears-and other highly irresponsible teen idols whose aberrant and outrageous behavior is devastating our kids. But even these miscreants would have little or no influence over our children if they weren't first failed by their parents. The principal causes of the fall of our children are truly awful moms and dads who believe it's their job to be their kids' best friend rather than their parents, trusted buddies treating their children as equals rather than disciplinarians policing their kids' errant behavior. If our kids are animals, it's because we have opened the cages and have been forced to become increasingly desperate zookeepers.
Several times a week on my radio show we host experts on child-rearing, some of them peddling twaddle like this. What follows is an abbreviated conversation with one author who herself has a 14-year-old daughter.
Expert: I drove five hours to my daughter's camp on visiting day and brought along her boyfriend to see her so that she knows that what's important to her is important to me too.
Me: You let your daughter have a boyfriend at 14?
Expert: Of course. And he's such a nice boy.
Me: Do you allow him to be alone with her in her bedroom?
Expert: Of course. I never use the word "forbid" with my daughter about anything. We talk about everything. We have such a good relationship. Banning her from certain activities would upset our friendship.
Me: What if she wants to have sex?
Expert: I've told her many times that I prefer that she not have sex. But ultimately she has to make her own choices, and I took her to a doctor to get contraception just in case.
Me: Wow, lady! Forgive me for being intemperate, but this stuff is nuts!
Expert: Your tough line will only get your children to rebel. You don't own them, you know.
Wanna make a bet! They're my kids. And I will not only teach them right and wrong, but I will reward them for the right and punish them for the wrong.
The "Be your kid's best friend" mentality, propagated by dim-witted experts like these, is guilty of destroying a whole generation of children. Kids have plenty of friends. But they only have one set of parents. They need someone to give them backbone and help them steel themselves against the malign forces that seek to subtly corrupt or manipulate them.