Welcome to YouthFacts
We Are Debunkers
YouthFacts is dedicated to providing factual information on youth issues –- crime, violence, sex, drugs, drinking, social behaviors, education, civic engagement, attitudes, media, whatever teen terror du jour arises. Since we emphasize demonstrable fact over teen-bashing emotionalism and interest-driven propaganda, the information you find here will be dramatically different than in the major media and political forums.
For all we are hearing decade after decade about the supposedly dire state of mental health among young people, with alarms raised about “teen suicide” steadily since at least 1913, youth show more favorable trends than their parents over the last generation (Figure 1, click on image if unclear).
Note: Rates shown are annual suicides and deaths of undetermined intent suspected of being suicides for ages under 20 divided by the population ages 15-19 (teens), and for ages 35-54 (parents). Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). The linear trendline mathematically incorporates all data points.
An aging society confronted with rapid change can be a dangerous one, fearful and hostile toward bewildering new demographics, technologies, and social orders. Unfortunately, leaders and their compliant media too often have chosen to exploit these fears. Coinciding with increasing racial diversity of American youth, interests of every stripe have buttressed their politics, agendas, fame, and fortunes by manufacturing ever-wilder fears of young people. As “youth” have become handier scapegoats and profit-generating commodities in America’s privatized social policy, fear, lying, and raw self-promotion prevail.
The startlingly new and different information provided here is ORIGINAL. It is not derived secondhand from special interests, media reports, or anointed “experts.” Rather, the reader will be able to link to the primary sources cited and see firsthand how youth issues are routinely distorted in public forums.
Sure, we have opinions, but we don’t tie information here to political or social agendas. As so many interests and media across the political spectrum manufacture grossly inaccurate nonsense about youth, we promise a site that is offensive to ideologues. And, unlike entrenched interests, we’ll respond seriously to challenges and corrections.
New Youth Developments
Dramatic, promising youth trends demand attention
Mike Males, October 1, 2015
Modern American youth are acting very differently from what experts predicted – and certainly different from what agenda-driven politics frozen in decades-old dogmas can handle.
YouthFacts posts new 1960-2014 crime tables, showing continuing, dramatic declines in all types of crime by youth to levels below those of 50 years ago (even as crime by older ages continues to rise). Clearly, the best, most recent FBI and CDC information shows it’s time to abolish the hostile, prejudicial term “youth violence,” and to stop branding teenagers a “risky, crime-prone population.”
The charts on gun deaths (above), crime trends (below), and shown in the posted crime tables only a few of many examples. Against every theory of youth behavior and political need, however, young people show enormous reductions in gun fatalities over the last two decades in states with stronger gun controls and fewer guns (New York and California) — and also in states with weaker, “open carry” laws and more guns (Texas)…(read more)
“Lawless dystopia” averted!
Change in California felony rates by age group, 1978 (first year available) – 2014 (latest year)
California Criminal Justice Statistics Center, Statistics, Arrests, 2015. Arrest rates per 100,000 population by age group are compared for 2014 versus 1978.
Mike Males, August 6, 2015
California’s young people became dramatically more racially and ethnically diverse over the last 35 years. From 1980 to 2014, the population age 10-24 increased by 1.8 million, and the percent that is White (not Latino) fell from 63% then to 29% today. During that period — defying “expert” predictions and a lot of fear-mongering about the “coming youth crime wave” — crime among children under age 12 plunged by a staggering 94%, and fell among adolescents age 12-17 by 76%. Meanwhile, Californians age 30 and older (for whom the largest racial group remains Whites) show sharply increased crime over the period, new Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice studies show.
“Members” Now: Citizens Later?
Anthony Bernier, October 2017
America does not appear in the mood to broaden its notion of “citizenship” for the next while. This fight doesn’t end here, of course, but the current environment is a minefield of political kryptonite and recrimination.
For several years, however, I have been urging librarians to define YA users (within the context of the particular work librarians do) broadly and locally as citizens–not as psychologists (who define youth as “patients” or research subjects) or the different ways in which police officers, school counselors, or social workers variously define young adults for their own institutions.
I previously argued that libraries adopt and redefine the notion of “citizen” to include young people in local environments, outside and beyond the reach of formal or legal definitions, as citizens of their cities, towns, and neighborhoods. I advanced this argument to help libraries (as local institutions) become more mindful about youth in the here and now, instead of how Youth Development’s Grand Agenda does, fixated upon distant futures mired exclusively in privileged middle-class aesthetics and aspirations.
A recent study of African American youth demonstrates that a broader citizenship vision of youth may be asking too much of this adult culture. The study documents young people in public space peacefully observing a live performance. Immediately they became characterized by police, journalists, and judges as a flash mob, as terrorists. These American citizens, exercising their right to a non-violent public gathering, their rights to their city, facilitated by the very digital tools we want them using, attract ire and punishment for simply raising anxiety. (read more)
Beyond the Celebrations
The disturbing things LIS students find out about real YA programming and professionals’ ethical obligation to improve YA experience
Anthony Bernier, August 2017
It becomes more difficult each year to convince LIS students that they need to demonstrate service impact on YAs.
It is especially difficult when they see so little professional commitment to it coming from practitioners in the field. Why is it that so few YA librarians exhibit curiosity about the outcomes their users derive from their professional interventions? It certainly is a rare instance in which librarians demonstrate this curiosity to their future colleagues.
Before you get too angry at this revelation, however, let’s establish a few basic definitions. First and foremost, let’s differentiate library inputs and outputs from outcomes. (read more)
YA Activism: Thunder from the Left (and the Right)
Anthony Bernier, June 2017
What is it going to take?
How much more time must pass before libraries realize that young adults don’t need any “youth development” agenda to recognize them as active participants and contributors to the culture?
While libraries wring hands in moral panics and exaggerations over “youth crime,” “peer pressure” (it’s always peer pressure), and developmental needs (and it’s always needs) – things libraries actually can’t do anything about–the youth go forward without permission from some institution claiming to “empower” them with “community assets.”
It’s too easy to characterize recent youth activism as coming from the cultural or political “left.” Still, it’s difficult to ignore the progressive impacts that the DREAMers or the Black Lives Matter movements are having on national politics and policy (see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lives_Matter, and Walter J. Nicholls, 2013, The DREAMers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate). (read more)
With few exceptions, today’s “expert” books on adolescents by psychologists, angry parents, and journalists are really the same book. All uniformly depict teenagers as more troubled today than ever due to peer and cultural influences, extreme vexations to their healthy-minded parents and a challenge for ever-wise professionals. Their authors’ universal message can be summed up in two words: “I’m superior!” Authors flatter themselves and their readers by creating a community of the morally, intellectually, and responsibly superior, with the grownup burden to rescue and redirect today’s apocalyptically messed-up kids. As popular youth-trasher James Garbarino declares to his disciples, “You are not the problem, you are the solution!”
What’s amazing is that amid this barrage of crude anti-youth stereotyping and dismality, entertainment media presents a wonderfully diverse array of young people that both caricatures and mirrors the individuality of teens the supposedly nonfiction authors deny. Examination reveals just how terrible most books on teenagers today are.
The good: Bibliography and new covers
The bad and the ugly: Book/media reviews
When they admit, reluctantly, that huge improvements in youth behavior have occurred, politicians and interests rush to claim credit. But do they deserve it? The best evidence is that young people themselves deserve the credit. Defying their elders’ selfish cut-my-taxes defunding of schools and pricing of higher education out of reach of middle-class and poorer young people, many more in this generation are avoiding dropout, getting diplomas, attending college, and obtaining degrees than ever before — with huge social benefits. (read more)
Recently Published Articles
Teens would be crazy if many weren’t depressed, given shocking levels of parental abuse Consider who profits from the latest media avalanche clarioning a “teenage mental health crisis.” Every generation for the last century — even the Greatest Generation — regularly has been branded the most troubled ever. However, the latest official survey finds a huge new factor everyone is ignoring: high levels of abuse by even more messed-up grownups. By Mike Males | May 15, 2022
Gun debate should shift toward adult shooters, who outnumber schoolkids with deadly weapons American schools are just about the safest places in gun-plagued American society from shootings – safer than Denmark, in fact. Household adult shooters pose far more danger to kids than do peers at school. Those crucial, easily-provable realities are so horrifying to gun debaters none dare to admit them. By Mike Males | December 8, 2021
California juvenile reforms should proceed, despite probation officer lobbying efforts Juvenile probation officers are lobbying to save their budgets, claiming thoroughly undeserved credit for the 82% decline in crime by youth. By Mike Males | October 19, 2021
High Court’s Recent Juvenile Lifer Ruling is Barbaric Both sides in the Court’s decision upholding a life sentence for a severely abused teenager were poisoned by primitive prejudices against adolescents that wrecked any semblance of individualized justice. By Mike Males | May 13, 2021
A Proposal to Transform California’s Juvenile Justice System, Confront Climate Change California can shift to a 21st-century model of small-scale, low-density facilities oriented toward education, job training and conservation employment. By Mike Males and Selena Teji | September 16, 2020
Blaming Young People For COVID-19 Infections, Crime Is Unfair Stereotype Cut out the smug blame game. Young people, like people of color, dominate occupations whose workers are more exposed to infection and are compelled by economic circumstances to return to work – realities that account for recent infections. By Mike Males | November 11, 2020
Whatever Happened to the Teenage Shoplifter (and Vandal, Arsonist, Burglar, Joyrider)? Vandalism, shoplifting, burglary, joyriding, arson, and petty theft once defined the “dumb kid”. Now, after the under-20 share of property crime arrests plummeted from 43% in 1975 to 8% today – yes, you read that right – the “dumb teenager” seems to have vanished. By Mike Males | July 10, 2020
Plunging Youth Crime Is Opportunity for California The massive, 82% plummet in youth arrests over the last quarter-century has devastated California’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and brought stunning new opportunities for genuine reform. By Mike Males | April 20, 2020
The Chronicles of a Youth Library Advocate
The Case of Justice Kavanaugh v. Youth Development “The library offers young adults a unique space in our culture. Let us count the ways…” By Anthony Bernier | June 05, 2019
How Essential Are Library Spaces for Young Adults? “It’s either one way or the other. You just can’t have it both ways.” By Anthony Bernier | November 11, 2018
Why Does LIS Ignore YA Services?
Part I “Oh, they [young adult librarians] don’t have anything to say.” By Anthony Bernier | June 04, 2018
Why Does LIS Ignore YA Services?
Part II “After driving so much growth for nearly a half-century, and after contributing so much innovation to the profession, why does the larger library and information science (LIS) community ignore YA services?” By Anthony Bernier | July 31, 2018
YA Experience versus Library Service Metrics “The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now!” By Anthony Bernier | March 21, 2018
The Damaging Myth of “Teen Behavior” “There is no such thing as ‘teen behavior.” By Anthony Bernier | February 05, 2018