Growing Up Is Hard—But Harder Than It Used to Be?

It’s an article of faith among parents: Growing up is harder for today’s youngsters than it was for us. Like so many parental opinions, though, this one isn’t necessarily shared by the kids. Consider the results of a study commissioned jointly by Nickelodeon, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Children Now. Among parents of 8-15-year-olds, 71 percent said growing up is harder now, versus 14 percent saying it’s easier. Among the kids themselves, 32 percent said it’s harder to grow up now than when their parents were youngsters, but 42 percent said it’s easier. Only in the 12-15-year-old subgroup did the “harder” vote exceed the “easier” tally (43 percent versus 37 percent). Mothers are more likely than fathers to be cognizant of their kids’ feelings on this and other important matters. Asked how often they talk about “what’s going on in your life” with their mothers, 62 percent of girls and 48 percent of boys said “a lot”; another 34 percent of girls and 47 percent of boys said “sometimes.” Fathers are less in the picture: Among girls, 27 percent said they have such talks with dad “a lot” and 53 percent said “sometimes”; among boys, 39 percent said “a lot” and 48 percent “sometimes.” Indeed, by the time they’ve reached the 12-15 age bracket, kids indicate that fathers have been eclipsed by other influences. Asked how much they learn from various sources about “sex, drugs and alcohol, violence and treating people who are different,” 35 percent of the 12-15s said they learn a lot from their fathers. But 43 percent credited their friends with this degree of influence, while TV shows/movies (37 percent) and schools/teachers (40 percent) also outpolled fathers. One other intriguing morsel in this section of the survey: The Internet was credited with “a lot” of influence in these matters by 21 percent of the 8-9-year-olds but just 16 percent of the 12-15s. Bycontrast, magazines scored 12 percent among the 8-9-year-olds but 18 percent among the 12-15s. (We’ll pass along other tidbits from this extensive study in a future issue.)