“Listen to us:” Youth Are More Resilient Than We Deserve
Wynter, 14, demands “listen to us.” Hunter, 14, answers the question “The best thing about being young my age is… ‘Having friends and learning more and more stuff in school.’ “Your childhood is something you’ll never get back,” says 12-year-old Trinity, “And I feel like you’re an adult for a long time, way longer than your childhood.” (1)
Kids today have every justification for dwelling in fear and gloom. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re demonstrating a resilience that this society does not deserve.
Just look what we’ve been putting them through recently:
- A post-pandemic return to national childhood poverty rates
- Massive social and educational disruptions during Covid
- Universal live shooter “lockdown” drills brought on by a gun fetish
culture and hundreds of fabricated “swatting” scares in schools across the
- Massively exaggerated moral panic and anxieties about youth mental
- Banned book campaigns
- Seldom acknowledged daily violence and exploitation many face at
home – at the hands of parents and caregivers
And what do they have to look forward to…
- Growing neoconservative austerity systematically eviscerating public
infrastructure – especially public schools and libraires
- Women’s rights to self-determination evaporated by Supreme Court
- A Hunger Games future of environmental devastation
We don’t deserve the resilience they display.
Amid the fear mongering they’re exposed to daily, through metal detectors, lock-down drills, armed police on campus, and the psychology profession constantly pressing claims about its newfound youth market. Still, there are some recent reports offering a counternarrative to cruel
public policy and mercenary surveillance “experts” in “security” and “mental health” fields.
What the New York Times reported in its younger teen focus group is mirrored not only in resilience but the dramatic upswing of political activism of older teens. Today’s teenagers are mobilizing for sane gun control, for humane immigration policy, for identity and gender equity, and for a viable planet upon which to grow old.
The new PEW Research Center’s “Connection, Creativity and Drama: Teen Life on Social Media in 2020,” also documents positive outcomes reported by youth themselves:
- 80% report greater social connectivity
- 71% report feeling more confident in showing creativity
- 67% connect with people who support them
While moral panic fretting proliferates, evidence illustrates how these technologies overwhelming facilitates pro-social youth behaviors. Yes, it’s true and should be more widely acknowledged, that during the early days of the pandemic the federal government responded admirably and swiftly to poverty, particularly to child poverty. Federal government action aimed to avert economic catastrophe and, in the process, rolled back more than half of children in poverty. (2)
That was then. This is now. With the pandemic viewed largely in the rear-view mirror so is anti-poverty assistance. No, we don’t deserve youth’s current resilience. We certainly didn’t pay
for it. And until we obey young Wynter’s admonition to “listen to them” all we offer is hopes and prayers.
1 Ariel Kaminer, Adrian J. Rivera, and Margie Omero, “12 Teens and Tweens on America Today, New York Times,
26 March 2023, page 12.
2 Matthew Desmond, “The High Cost of Being Poor,” The New York Review of Books, 20 April 2023, pp. 55-57.