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Many people believe that kids these days are less intelligent and have less respect for their elders, as well as that they just don't enjoy reading that much. One study explains why.

Folks have been whining about "kids these days" at least since ancient Greece. Perhaps that's because coping with change can be challenging for the best of us, and kids these days really are different. 

The "kids these days" of today, for instance, are obese in higher numbers than ever before, with corresponding rates of high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. They're growing up with technologies their grandparents couldn't even have dreamed of. That means they're taking multitasking to a whole new level while, for instance, engaged in social media and listening to music as they attempt to do their homework. These new technologies are also changing the way today's kids interact with the people who matter to them, increasingly choosing electronic avenues over physical ones. 

When you think about it, today's children are different because they're growing up in contexts we — yesterday's children — created. That's not a good reason to tell them to get off our proverbial lawns, is it? Are today's children also, however, less respectful of their elders? Are they less well-read? And are they less intelligent? Some people certainly think so, and one fascinating new study examined why. 

Do you think kids these days don't respect their elders?

Your average adult is indeed convinced that today's children respect their elders less than previous generations did — though their own elders may very well once have said the same thing about them. The study took an interesting turn when its authors examined how authoritarian the people expressing these views were, however.

Guess what? The more authoritarian your beliefs, and hence the more important you think respect for elders is, the more likely you are to have the impression that the youth of today simply doesn't have respect for older people any more.

Do you think today's kids are dumbing down?

They're not. Research has actually shown that intelligence is rising — for whatever that's worth. Most people don't share the view that children are becoming less intelligent, the study found, but those who do scored higher on the intelligence tests, related to things like arithmetic and vocabulary, the study authors asked participants to take part in. The conclusion? Smarter people are more likely to believe that kids these days are dumbing down. 

Do you think modern children no longer enjoy reading?

You may see where this is going. Most of the 1500 people who were recruited for this part of the research held the belief that today's youth doesn't enjoy reading as much as their own generation did. The more well-read a person was, however, the higher the odds that they had this impression. The study authors also thought that political conservatives might be more likely to have come to the conclusion that today's kids don't enjoy reading, but the research found that a person's political stance had nothing to do with their likelihood of holding this belief. 

Forget about 'kids these days': Are we all just really full of ourselves? 

This research, titled Kids these days: Why the youth of today seem lacking, ultimately discovered that:

  • People who think respect for elders is extremely important believe that younger generations lack this trait.
  • People who test as intelligent think younger generations are becoming less smart.
  • People who have read a lot of books — presumably indicating they enjoy that — have formed the impression that younger generations no longer find as much pleasure in this activity.

Older research has already discovered that people tend to see themselves as superior to others, as more friendly, more honest, and more intelligent, regardless of objective evidence. They also tend to think they're less likely to experience negative events, believe they're better people now than in the past, and have the impression that they'll continue to become better people.

This study simply seems to confirm that we, humans, tend to think of ourselves a bit too highly. 

The same (well-read) folks who believed today's youth no longer likes to spend time reading believe other adults' reading habits have declined, too, for instance, but their self-confidence is easy to knock down. When they were randomly told, after filling out an author recognition questionnaire, that they scored poorly (regardless of whether they actually did), they changed their tune. Now, people no longer believed they were all that well-read, and they suddenly didn't think they enjoyed it all that much when they were kids, either. 

Memory is faulty, the research shows, and people who enjoy reading now, as adults, often take that to mean that they must also have liked reading as kids, and therefore everyone else in their generation must have, as well. 

Folks have been whining about "kids these days" since time immemorial, and this study finally shows us why. It's because the better we are at something, the worse we think everyone else is. It's because we're self-centered and have superiority complexes. It's because our memories suck, so we project our current selves onto our past selves and the past selves of everyone else who shares our generation. Our whining about kids these days says nothing at all about the youth of today, but a lot about human nature. 

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