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Each new generation experiences a shift in attitudes and behaviors from the past generation. Here are some of the teen trends taking place among adolescents today:

  1. Teens today seem much less interested in independence than kids of previous generations, and stay at home more rather than going out with friends. As Jean Twenge reports, “The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009.” (Twenge, 2017) A big reason for this is that much of their social world has moved online.
  1. Teens are also delaying their driver’s licenses, relying more on parents to chauffeur them around. Whereas nearly all high-school students growing up in the Baby Boomer generation had their driver’s licenses by the spring of their senior year, more than a quarter of teens today still haven’t gotten one by the time they graduate. (ibid)
  1. Today’s teens are working less. Whereas 77% of high-school seniors in the late 1970s had a paying job during the school year, by the mid-2010s only 55% did, and the number of 8th-graders with paying jobs has been cut in half. (ibid)
  1. 8th, 10th and 12th graders in this decade actually spend less time on homework than Gen X teens did in the early 1990s. (ibid)
  1. Teens today are more sleep deprived than in past generations. Sleep deprivation among teens increased by 57% between 1991 and 2015, and there was a 22% increase between 2012 and 2015 in the number of teens who didn’t get 7 hours of sleep a night. (ibid) Much of this is blamed on the rise in electronic devices.


Social trends among teens

  1. The number of teens who hang out with friends IRL (in real life) dropped by more than 40% just between 2000 and 2015, and this cliff has only accelerated recently. (ibid)
  1. A 2012 nationally-representative Pew survey of 799 12- to 17-year-olds by researcher Amanda Lenhart found that only 35% regularly socialize face-to-face anymore, compared with 63% who say they communicated mostly through text messages, averaging 167 texts a day. (Kardaras, 2016)


Sexual trends among teens

  1. The average age of first sex for teens has been increasing in recent years, but not because of anything parents have done. Rather, you can blame their smart phones: Since teens now spend more time interacting in the digital world than they do in real life, the average teen now makes their sexual debut in the spring of their junior year in high school (10th grade), a full year later than Gen X’ers did. (Twenge, 2017, p. 61)
  1. Dating is down too: Only 56% of high school seniors went out on a date in 2015, compared to about 85% for Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. (ibid)
  1. Because of this, and because of an increase in condom use and birth control, the teenage birth rate “hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991. (ibid)


Trends in teen drinking & drug use

  • The number of 12th graders who binge drink was cut in half between the late 1990s and 2016. (Twenge, 9-2-2017)


Mental health trends among teens

  • The good news in all of this is that today’s teens are marginally safer. Because they drive less, go out less, and socialize less, teen drinking, teen car accident fatalities, and teen homicide rates are at historically low levels. The bad news is that rates of mental illness have skyrocketed. Teens today are far more likely to be depressed and far more likely to commit suicide than teens of previous generations. (Twenge, 2017)
  • Depression symptoms among boys increased 21% between 2012 and 2015, while the same among girls rose 50% in that time – twice the rate of boys. (ibid)
  • Twice as many boys and 3-times as many girls in the 12 to 14 age group killed themselves in 2015 as compared to 2007. (ibid)
  • Compared to teens in the 1980s, adolescents today are 74% more likely to have trouble sleeping and twice as likely to see a professional for mental health issues. (Kardaras, 2016)



Kardaras, N. (2016) “Generation Z: Online and at risk,” Scientific American Mind, Sept./Oct., pp. 64-69

Twenge, J.M. (2017) “Has the smartphone destroyed a generation?” The Atlantic, Sept., pp. 58-65

Twenge, J.M. (2017, Sept. 2) “The smartphone generation vs. free speech,” Wall Street Journal, p.

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