It would be obvious to say that each new generation faces a different world than that of its parents. Mostly this seems to be a good thing since change often goes hand in hand with progress. But recent findings suggest that perhaps today’s youths are dealing with a combination of new threats that no previous generation has faced and they’re worse off for the experience.

Did you know that depression and anxiety levels have been increasing among young people in America over the last 50-70 years? And that today, 5x-8x times as many high school and college students meet the criteria of major depression or anxiety than about 50 years ago?Actually, anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Cold War, World War II, and the Great Depression.

In order to understand the causes behind this upsetting trend, let’s look more closely at a few scary trends impacting today’s youth:

Trend #1- The Explosion of Drug Use In The U.S.
While drug use has long been a problem in our society, no other generation has been forced to cope with a culture in which alcohol and drugs are so available.

Whether you realize it or not, children now see drug use everywhere, the explosion of prescription drugs in recent years has made sure of it. The U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population and consume 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. Over half of first time drug users are between the ages of 12 and 14, and about 14% of first time users are under the age of 11!

In a survey done by the Department of Health and Human Services 20% of kids (between the ages of 12 and 17) said it would be easy to get cocaine, and around 13% said it would be easy to get prescription drugs.

Trend # 2 Children Are Leading Increasingly Inactive Lives
Kids are now spending nearly as much time in front of the TV as they are in school.  On average they are spending between 5-9 hours a day in front of the TV. Children ages 8-12 average nearly 6 hours per day and Teenagers average nearly 9 hours per day.  With the constant increase in technology we can only assume many of these numbers will continue to rise. Then aside from TV video game playing has tripled in the past 5 years!

These digital addictions are turning kids into couch potatoes.  In the last 30 years childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents.  We are continuing to feed our youth based on quick, fast and convenient. There are constant mass marketing schemes on the front of boxed food, snacks, bottled dressings and juices. We can’t allow “sugar free”, “fat free” or any other mass marketing control the food we are putting into our kid’s bodies.

Trend #3 The Deterioration of Face-To-Face Relationships
Today’s youth is almost constantly “plugged in,” and research shows that this has a negative impact on their mental health. A recent study found that the more a person uses Facebook, the less happy they are likely to feel.  Also research from Carnegie Mellon found that the more a person uses the internet in general is closely related to loneliness and depression. This should make us begin to worry when 92% of teens report going online daily.

The constant use of the internet and social media are bringing kids great convenience but at what cost?  When a kid is struggling in class they are lacking communication skills to approach a teacher, or if they do have the skills they do not in fear of being judged by peers. Parents are even going to sit with their children during interviews for jobs.

There is a balance we must find in bringing up this generation of kids.  There is no question that this is a different generation, but in an outstanding way.  These kids have the creative and technological ability to shape the world like never been seen but we must help them find balance.

Help guide these future leaders with a balance of encouraging them to step outside their boundaries without hovering over and protecting them too much because they are clearly faced with dangers from drugs, physical inactivity and social media.  Let us help them find balance between them!