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.
Youth Facts Contributors
Professor Anthony Bernier teaches youth services at the nation’s largest library school (San Jose State University’s School of Information) and is Project Director for and blogs at YouthFacts.org. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, and rides a Vespa P200E and a BMW C650GT.
Mike Males is senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, San Francisco; formerly taught sociology, psychology, and epidemiology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Irvine; and has authored four books and scores of journal articles and op-eds on youth and social topics. He lives in Auburn, California, and writes weird futuristic fiction.
Wendy Schaetzel Lesko‘s experiences as a community organizer and journalist are woven into several of her books including Youth! The 26% Solution. After two decades with the Youth Activism Project, now Wendy leadsYouth Infusion which focuses on adult-run nonprofits and government agencies that engage teens as co-strategists in many organizational operations.
Milo Santamaria is an MLIS student at San Jose State University, and an aspiring children’s librarian. They have been volunteering with children and youth organizations for most of their life and earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at UC Santa Cruz. Milo lives in Southern California and has two pet guinea pigs named Phoebe and Cannoli.
“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)
No Safe Space Haven in a Public World
YALSA’s Cynical Heart: Reproducing the Adultist Agenda
YA Strike Zone Archives
New Blog Posts
Unlocking Knowledge of Those Impacted by Juvenile Justice System Activists of all ages in Shelby County have no illusions about dislodging deep systemic racism but they demonstrate increasing impatience about how minors are treated in the largest county in Tennessee. By Wendy Lesko, March 2023
What both the left and right get wrong about youth labor Both the left and right are wrong about youth labor. By Anthony Bernier, March 2023
Social Media Isn’t the Main Reason Teens Are Depressed Teens are right to be depressed — and it isn’t because of social media. Politicians and media are in their latest wave of ascribing young people’s mental health problems to anything but their real source: dysfunctional adults. By Mike Males, March 2023
The terrifying plunge in youth crime Why aren’t mammoth revolutions in youth behavior that make today’s teenagers a uniquely low-crime population that reduced gun deaths dramatically headlined in the news and studied excitedly in institutional forums? By Mike Males, February 2023
Response to CDC’s “Teen Girls ‘Engulfed’ in Violence and Trauma” Report CDC report on teen girls’ depression sidesteps so many major issues that it constitutes disinformation. By MaryAnn Harlan, February 2023
What Gangs Can Teach Us Objectifying young people, like objectifying anyone, rarely brings about positive outcomes. This is the lesson we never read or hear about in popular media. Administrations treat kids like someone who sees every problem as a nail because all they have is a hammer.
All we did here was ask. By Anthony Bernier, February 2023
American journalists, politicians, and interest groups left to right agree: It’s okay to lie about teens. Ninety-nine percent of the tens of thousands of news stories and commentaries on teenagers, suicide, and drug overdose lie. The willfully create a false impression. By Mike Males, February 2023
Vital Responses To “Youth Voices” How decision makers can go the extra mile by listening to those under age 18 and then take action. By Wendy Schaetzel Lesko, January 2023
Why do libraries continue to strike out with young people? The answer to the question why libraries strike out with young people is simple: libraries envision young people merely as information consumers, and many still believe that libraries are about books. By Anthony Bernier, January 2023
Schools Squander Imperative Schools are struggling, to say the least. By their own report, the US Department of Education paints a damning picture of the inability of educators and school leaders to recapture and re-institute the “good ol’ days” before the pandemic. Stories I have heard directly from teachers on the ground confirm this reality. By Adam Fletcher, January 2023
Michelle Obama Blames Her Relationship Challenges On Her Young Daughters It is never okay to make such sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people, especially with the kind of platform Michelle Obama has as a former First Lady. And if a Harvard-educated woman living in a mansion paid for by the government is struggling to raise her kids, what does that say about the rest of us?. By Milo Santamaria, January 2023