How to Cope with Challenges Facing Youth Today

I talked with a class of around 30 first- and second-year students at CSUC, asking for a show of hands and comments about their generation. Student Mandy Meyerson added the italicized comments below. Most of them knew someone who is anxious and depressed, and over half of those were taking medication. Only a few of the class averaged over eight hours of sleep during the week, which can feel depressing.

Students explained the pervasive anxiety is due to the fact that they were born after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, lived through the 2008 recession when some of their parents struggled to find jobs and tuned out as parents, bitter division between red and blue political ideologies (and Brexit in the UK), school shootings that make school seem like an unsafe place, the Covid-19 pandemic, and climate change (Britt Wray titled her 2022 book Generation Dread)—all bad news. Most of the young women carry pepper spray to protect against possible attacks. One young man said he carries a knife at night.

Having smart phones since they were little, they’re often exposed to this depressing news. They said they had to grow up too fast and too much is expected of them, like fix the broken world they were left with even at their young age. In terms of the effect of social media, a young woman explained she doesn’t care how many “likes” she gets but she does feel diminished when she sees a woman who has the kind of body she wishes she had. The young women mentioned seeing the effect of internet “influencers” in terms of clothing choices and products they buy, especially among sorority members. They mentioned FOMO. They felt the need to jump onto trends in fear of missing out. (A Brooklyn high school student, Logan Lane started a Luddite Club to boycott smart phone use. Her movement spread.)

The guys may feel competitive with men they see on social media with expensive possessions, such as vehicles. Men still seem to be judged as success objects and women as sex objects. Two women in the class have twin brothers. Both reported the girls are expected to be more mature, do the administrative work such as make appointments, and be more responsible about school work and housework  because “boys will be boys.” This may help explain why women in the US are more likely to attend university and graduate. The young women felt that they need to work almost twice as hard as men to be successful in today’s world.

Global Youth Culture Outlined in 12 Minutes