Science proves 'kids these days' are fine—it's the adults who tend to be oblivious a-holes
Patrick Buck/Unsplash

"Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt."
- Horace in Book III of Odes, 20 BC

"Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active life is most needed, early emancipation and a lessening sense for both duty and discipline, the haste to know and do all befitting man's estate before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth--all these lack some of the regulatives they still have in older lands with more conservative conditions." - Psychologist Granville Stanley Hall in The Psychology of Adolescence, 1904

The "kids these days" trope has been around forever. We have documentation for centuries of aging generations complaining that the young people are simply the worst. They have no respect. They've lost all sense of discipline. They're impetuous and impulsive, self-absorbed and self-indulgent. Millennials, millennials, blah blah blah.


RELATED: I swapped out 'millennials' in headlines for something better. It made a huge difference.

But a new series of studies confirms what many of us have always suspected: The kids are alright. At least, they're not objectively any worse than previous generations of young people. Rather, the ones responsible for the supposed downfall of "kids these days" are adults who lack self-awareness about how they apply their biased standards to young people.

In a paper published in Science Advances in October 2019, John Protzko and Jonathan W. Schooler from University of California, Santa Barbara examined five studies to determine what causes the "kids these days" phenomenon. They found that American adults tend to believe that today's youth are in decline in three traits—respect, intelligence, and an affinity for reading. But rather than objective truths, those perceptions are mostly due to adults applying their own mature standards on young people, in addition to bias for the traits in which they themselves currently excel.

The researchers wrote about their findings:

"Authoritarian people especially think youth are less respectful of their elders, intelligent people especially think youth are less intelligent, and well-read people especially think youth enjoy reading less. These beliefs are not predicted by irrelevant traits. Two mechanisms contribute to humanity's perennial tendency to denigrate kids: a person-specific tendency to notice the limitations of others where one excels and a memory bias projecting one's current qualities onto the youth of the past. When observing current children, we compare our biased memory to the present and a decline appears. This may explain why the kids these days effect has been happening for millennia."

So basically, older folks tend to be oblivious about how unfair and inaccurate their assessments of young people can be. Shocker, right?

RELATED: Condom snorting? Eating Tide Pods? Don't believe the viral hype around teen trends.

Each generation has unique qualities and characteristics honed by the time and environment in which they live. But young people behaving like young people and old folks behaving like old folks is the same in every age. Young people have always tended to push boundaries and old people have always looked back at their youth through a lens of rose-tinted nostalgia. Young people have always been immature as a group (hello, that what being young means) and older people have always forgotten what it was like to be young.

Objectively, though, kids these days have some impressive qualities—they tend to care about social and environmental causes and many are actively engaged in civil and political discourse. According to the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, teens smoke less, drink less, get pregnant less, get into fights less, and generally make less trouble than my own generation did. Some studies show that young people are taking longer to grow up and start doing "adult" things, but at the same time, they have closer bonds with their parents than previous generations. They struggle with increasing rates of mental health struggles and suicide, but are also working hard to break the stigma on such things.

Lighten up, gramps. The kids are alright.

Perhaps if we give young people the benefit of the doubt and some grace to figure out their place in the world, we can put an end to the "kids these days" cycle—or at least offer a better example of self-awareness than previous generations of curmudgeony old folks have.

Courtesy of Back on My Feet
True

Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."

Keep Reading Show less
True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

DiMezzo is clear about why she ran—to show how "clueless the average voter is" and to prove that "the system is utterly and hopelessly broken"—stances that her win only serves to reinforce.

In a blog post published on Friday, DiMezzo explained how she had never tried to hide who she was and that anyone could have looked her up to see what she was about, in addition to pointing out that those who are angry with her have no one to blame but themselves:

Keep Reading Show less

Maybe before the events of 2020, you were taking your toilet paper for granted. But chances are, you aren't anymore. But aside from the shortages earlier in the year, there are larger problems with traditional TP. Specifically, it's pretty bad for the environment. That said, thanks to a company called Reel, it doesn't have to be. That's because their toilet paper is made from bamboo stalks and designed with environmental sustainability in mind.

If you've had any experience with environmentally friendly toilet paper in the past, you might be tempted to stop reading. But contrary to the prevailing stereotypes about eco-conscious TP, Reel is renowned for its quality and comfort -- so much so that the brand has sold more than a million rolls of the stuff and counting. And it's done so without contributing to the monstrous devastation of forests that's associated with the traditional toilet paper industry.

Every roll of Reel toilet paper is made from 100-percent bamboo, and 0 trees. But that's not where the brand's environmental consciousness ends. It even extends to the packaging, which is plastic-free, right down to the tape. No dead trees, no environment-choking plastic, no inks, no dyes, and none of the infamous synthetic compound bisphenol A. Best of all, if you use it, there's no TP-related guilt about the damage your daily bathroom habits might bring to the planet.

Why is using bamboo to make toilet paper better than using trees? For starters, it's the fastest-growing plant in existence, and can grow as much as three feet in just 24 hours. It's harvested once a year and never needs replanting, making it an essentially infinite resource compared to trees, while also using up 30-percent less water. And as you'll feel for yourself once you give Reel a try, bamboo paper is much softer than other papers made from recycled paper or wood fiber, while also retaining bamboo's natural tensile strength, which is said to be even stronger than some types of steel.

Reel Premium Bamboo Toilet Paper

Reel

Reel even has ply-counters covered, too. If you were worried that bamboo toilet paper doesn't give you the thickness and quality you're accustomed to in TP, think again, because each role is generally proportioned with three ply for extra softness. In other words: you're not having to sacrifice comfort for the good of the planet, at least not as far as your toilet paper is concerned.

And Reel's environmental friendliness isn't the only good reason to make the switch. The brand also cuts off a slice of their profits for the funding of sanitation projects in developing nations, so you're helping that important cause with each roll you buy (in addition to helping reduce deforestation and pollution).

Each 24-roll box of Reel premium bamboo toilet paper costs $29.99, but if you're paranoid about running out, they also offer a subscription service that sends a new box to your door automatically every four weeks, eight weeks, or 12 weeks, depending on how often you usually buy. Customers have also reported that each roll of Reel lasts longer than regular toilet paper since it gets the job done with fewer sheets -- another point in favor of bamboo paper..

Your toilet paper doesn't have to kill trees or choke the environment with bulky plastic packaging. There is a better way. To find out more, check out Reel at its official site, and say hello to a new era of environmentally friendly toilet paper that's also comfortable, durable, and a pleasure to have around.

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.