Sunday, June 23, 2019
By Margot Sanger-Katz and Aaron E. Carroll
Kids these days are the “cautious generation,” the evidence shows.
Teenage dramas have typically presented a soapy view of high school, with more sex, drugs and wild behavior than in real life. But HBO’s new series “Euphoria” portrays a youth bacchanal that’s a stretch even for Hollywood. The show suggests that our modern society, with its smartphone dating apps, internet pornography and designer drugs, has made teenage life more extreme and dangerous than ever before.
Actually, nearly the opposite is true.
You wouldn’t know it from “Euphoria,” but today’s teenagers drink less than their parents’ generation did. They smoke less, and they use fewer hard drugs. They get in fewer car accidents and fewer physical fights. They are less likely to drop out of high school, less likely to have sex, and less likely to become pregnant. They commit fewer crimes.
They even wear bike helmets.
Across a wide range of classically risky teenage behaviors, today’s teenagers are getting tamer and more responsible, making better decisions and eschewing the dangerous choices that, for many adults today, defined youth. “There is a whole bunch of good news out there,” said Bill Albert, the chief innovation officer at Power to Decide, a group that used to be called the Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, before teenage pregnancy rates fell by half. “I think it is fair to call this the cautious generation.”
But over all, adolescence is safer than it’s ever been.
Most teenagers aren’t having sex
Most High School Juniors Are VirginsThe show’s depiction of sexual activity among teenagers may be where it strays furthest from the facts. In the first episode, the character Jules encourages her virginal friend Cat to have sex, saying, “This isn’t the ’80s.” Many, many characters are shown having sex and talking about it, as if it were something all teenagers do. But the rates of sex — and particularly risky sex — among teenagers are lower now than they were then. Most teenagers the age of the main characters report, on surveys, that they are virgins.
The percentage of high school juniors who have ever had sexual intercourse has declined to 42 percent from 62 percent since 1991, according to a national survey of teenagers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number having sex with multiple partners has fallen: Fewer than 11 percent of high school juniors have had four or more partners, down from 22 percent in 1991. More teenagers who are having sex are using contraception. And the rates of teenage birth have fallen by more than half.
One thing that certainly is true is that teenagers today have more access to porn than ever before. They are also more likely to sext, and share nude photos online (“Unless you’re Amish, nudes are the currency of love,” says the main character, Rue, played by Zendaya, who has a tendency to exaggerate). It’s possible that teenagers will be less shocked than many television reviewers have been at a locker room scene in Episode 2 featuring many, many penises. But wider access to pornography doesn’t mean adolescents are more promiscuous. Young people who have grown up with this technology and access are having less sex than those who lacked it.
Drug use is declining
The series depicts extensive drug use among teenagers, including cocaine, opioids and synthetic hallucinogens. But the use of nearly every type of drug, including alcohol and tobacco, has been falling among teenagers for decades, according to a longstanding survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.In Episode 1, Rue and Jules use a hallucinogen. Only 0.5 percent of 10th graders now report having used a hallucinogen in the last month. That’s about a third of the rate in the late 1990s. In 2018, only 19 percent of 10th graders reported having consumed an alcoholic beverage in the prior 30 days, down from more than 40 percent in the 1990s.
Cigarette use has fallen even more precipitously. In 2018, only 4 percent of 10th graders had smoked in the last 30 days, down from highs of 30 percent.
The one major exception to the trend is marijuana use. Teenagers seem to smoke pot at around the same rate that they did a generation ago, with just over one in four 10th graders reporting any use in the last year.
There has been an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes, which deliver the drug nicotine. Though vaping has fewer long-term health risks than smoked tobacco, federal officials have characterized the recent increases as a new epidemic. About 16 percent of 10th graders and 21 percent of 12th graders reported use in the last month in 2018.
The declines in drug use among teenagers have several health benefits. Young people, whose brains keep developing till their mid-20s, may be at higher risk of addiction when they begin consuming substances. And, as the opioid supply in many parts of the country has become more dangerous and less predictable, anyone taking such drugs is at an increased risk of a fatal overdose.
There are a number of theories that may explain the declines in drug use. Some experts point to a benevolent effect of peer pressure. As fewer teenagers use substances, doing so becomes more stigmatized and less cool. The parties with rampant drug and alcohol use depicted in “Euphoria” clearly differ from the social experiences of many American teenagers today.
But suicide is a growing worry
The first episode contains a few quick depictions of suicide (and plenty of self-destructive behavior). This is one area that has actually been worsening for adolescents.
From 2000 through 2007, the rates of teenage suicide were somewhat flat, according to C.D.C. data. From 2008 through 2014, the annual rate of suicide began increasing. Beginning in 2014, through 2017, the most recent year with complete data, the rate rose even more, to a 10 percent increase per year.
Among girls 15 to 19, changes have been even more significant. The overall rate in 2017 was about twice that in 2000. The suicide rate among adolescents is currently at its highest level in 20 years based on available C.D.C. data. It’s the second-leading cause of death in this age group. Yet teenage suicide remains far from common: Fewer than 2,500 teenagers died this way in 2017. It’s worth noting that almost half of these deaths are via firearms, and many could probably be prevented. There’s some evidence that mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, are becoming more common among teenagers. Recent data are not available, but a study published last year found that the lifetime prevalence of anxiety or depression in children between the ages of 6 and 17 increased to 8.4 percent in 2011–12 from 5.4 percent in 2003. (Rue is put on more medications at a very young age than almost any pediatrician would support.)
Researchers say there is no one simple explanation for the decline in reckless behavior among teenagers. Besides positive peer pressure, some possible causes they cite include the rise of more intensive parenting; internet distractions that keep teenagers at home rather than out and about; expanded health coverage and improvements in mental health care; and the elimination of brain-damaging lead from gasoline in the 1970s.
There is such a tendency to catastrophize teenage behavior that many parents and television writers have missed this revolution in the nature of adolescence.
“In the long term, the trends are quite clear,” said David Finkelhor, a sociology professor and director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “But even in the short term, we’re undergoing a period of dramatic improvements that have not been widely acknowledged or underlined, and it’s too bad.”
For now, Pakistan is banking upon its time tested modus operandi of tiding over the immediate crisis by giving in to whatever is demanded of it, and then waiting and hoping that things take a turn for the better so that they no longer need to deliver on the commitments they have made.
Despite abundance of food, child malnutrition is rife in Pakistan. Four in 10 children under 5 years of age are stunted in the country, according to a government survey.
The malnutrition and neonatal ward of the government-run civil hospital in Mithi city, in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, has hundreds of child patients. One of them is Mukesh, a frail, listless toddler showing no signs of motion. A sign on his crib says he is 3 years old, but he hardly looks that age.
His mother, 36-year-old Ragini Mehgwar, gave birth to six children, but only two managed to survive. Now, Mukesh is battling for his life. "We are poor laborers living on daily wages. We rely on our livestock for income and are unable to make ends meet. There is a frequent shortage of food in the house," Mehgwar told DW.
Mukesh's plight is shared by millions of other children in Pakistan. According to the country's National Nutrition Survey for the years 2018-19, one in every three children is underweight.
The study assessed the nutritional status of 115,500 households across Pakistan. The primary focus of data collection was on children under the age of 5, adolescent girls, and women of child-bearing age.
Reasons for malnutrition
According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) child growth standards, stunting is a harmful complication of malnutrition and can simply be defined as being shorter than the average height for one's age.
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require that governments worldwide end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030, particularly for the poor and vulnerable sections of society, including infants.
Pakistan's national survey results, however, reveal that no considerable progress has been made on these fronts in the country. Four out of every 10 children aged under 5 are stunted, while nearly 5 million children in the same age group suffer from wasting, or low weight for their height. In total, 18% of the children aged under five suffer from wasting.
Wasting is also a strong predictor of mortality among children.
The survey also showed that nearly 13% of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years faced some form of functional disability. Furthermore, one in every eight adolescent girls and one in every five adolescent boys suffered from being underweight, while over half of adolescent girls were anemic.
Maternal health a factor
Ram Ratan, the medical superintendent at the Mithi hospital, has been witnessing the malnutrition crisis for the past several years. He said many children in the region fall victim to malnutrition and undernourishment because of the weakness of their mothers, many of whom have delivered several babies without enough gap between pregnancies. "Mothers' poor nutrition and diet patterns are the major causes of babies' death and malnutrition," he said.
This is compounded by Pakistan's patriarchal culture and gender-based discrimination, say observers. In most households, women often have less food to eat than their male relatives. And the cultural norm of women eating after the male members of the family finish their meals as well as young-aged marriages have also contributed to the problem.
Bearing large numbers of children from a young age not only takes a toll on women's health, but also impacts the well-being of the fetus and the ability to breastfeed a newborn.
"Children who are born small due to poor maternal nutrition start life with a huge disadvantage. Stunting, for example, is one of Pakistan's biggest nutrition-related challenges, and has its roots in pregnancy when mothers do not get adequate nutrition," Aida Girma, country representative for the UNICEF in Pakistan, told DW.
Improving feeding practices
Addressing the problem requires nutritional intervention, said Girma. It included the treatment of acute malnutrition, administering oral rehydration salts for diarrhea, supplementing maternal and child micro-nutrients, improving infant and young child feeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding, introducing minimum dietary diversity and minimum acceptable diet.
In Pakistan, only 38% of babies are fed breast milk exclusively during their first six months in line with UN recommendations.
"There are also nutrition-sensitive interventions that must be equally emphasized such as ending open defecation, addressing food security, providing care giving resources at maternal, household and community level," Girma said.
According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, there are 10.7 million stunted children in Pakistan. Owing to widespread poverty, many families cannot afford a nutritious diet with the recommended intake of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.
Prime Minister Imran Khan's government has expressed concern about the stunted growth of children in the country, which has the third highest rate of stunting among young children in the world.
Pakistan's state minister for health, Zafar Mirza, also said that the federal government prioritized the country's nutrition agenda and would work closely with the provinces for informed and effective interventions in the sector. "As difficult a task as it may seem, we will ensure that we save our children from malnutrition," he said shortly after his ministry revealed the survey's results.
’جب خیبر پختونخوامیں آئے روز دھماکے ہوتے تھے اور امن وامان کی صورتحال مخدوش تھی تو یہی پشاور کے صحافی ان چینلوں کے لیے اپنی جان ہتھیلی پر رکھ کر دن رات کوریج کیا کرتے تھے لیکن اب جب حالات بہتر ہوگئے ہیں تو ہمیں چینلوں سے نکالا جا رہا ہے‘۔
یہ کہنا تھا24 نیوز چینل کے پشاور میں بند ہونے والے دفتر کے بیورو چیف عالمگیر خان کا، جنہوں نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو مزید بتایا کہ چینل مالکان نے خراب معاشی صورتحال کی وجہ بتا کر تقریبا 12 ملازمین کو فارغ کر دیا ہے۔
پشاور میں 24 نیوز چینل کی بندش سے پہلے کیپیٹل ٹی وی کا پشاور دفتر بھی اس مسئلے سے دوچار رہا۔ اس کے زیادہ ترملازمین کو فارغ کرتے ہوئے باقی عملے کو ایک کرائے کے کمرے سے کام کرنے کی ہدایت کی گئی ہے۔
کچھ مہینے پہلے پشاور ہی میں روزنامہ ایکسپریس نے درجنوں ملازمین کو فارغ کردیا تھا جبکہ انگریزی روزنامے ایکسپریس ٹریبیون نے پشاور سمیت ملک کے دیگر شہروں میں اپنے بیورو دفاتر بند کردیے ہیں۔ اسی طرح چند مہینے پہلے جیو اور جنگ گروپ نے پشاور میں صحافیوں سمیت 40 سے زائد ملازمین کو نوکریوں سے نکال دیا تھا۔
عالمگیر نے بتایا کہ پشاور ایک چھوٹا شہر ہے جہاں پرمقامی چینلز کے علاوہ کسی بھی میڈیا ادارے کا صدر دفتر واقع نہیں اور یہی وجہ ہے کہ یہاں میڈیا میں ملازمت کے مواقع نہ ہونے کے برابر ہیں۔
صرف پشاور نشانے پر کیوں؟
میڈیا اداروں نے پاکستان کے دیگر شہروں میں بھی ملازمین کو نکالا ہے تاہم ان شہروں میں ان کے بیورو دفاتر اب بھی موجود ہیں۔
پشاور اور قبائلی اضلاع بین الاقوامی میڈیا سمیت قومی میڈیا کے لیے نہایت اہمیت کے حامل ہیں اور زیادہ تر اہم خبریں انہی علاقوں سے سامنے آتی ہیں، اس سب کے باوجود پشاور ہی زیر عتاب دکھائی دیتا ہے۔
خیبر یونین آف جرنلسٹ کے صدر فداخٹک نے اس کی بنیادی وجہ پشاور سے میڈیا اداروں کو بزنس نہ ملنا بتائی ۔ وہ کہتے ہیں: ’اخبارات کو کچھ نہ کچھ اشتہارات مل جاتے ہیں لیکن ٹی وی چینلز کو سرکاری یا نجی اشتہارات نہ ملنے کے برابر ہیں اور یہی وجہ ہے کہ ’میڈیا کے معاشی بحران‘ میں زیادہ تر بیورو دفاتر کو نشانہ بنایا جاتا ہے۔’ہم نے حکومت کو بتایا ہے کہ جن اداروں نے صحافیوں کو نکالا ہے ان کے اشتہارات بند کیے جائیں یا ان کو تنبیہ کی جائے کہ ملازمین کو دوبارہ بحال کریں۔ اس حوالے سے حکومت کا مثبت پیغام ملا ہے‘۔
پاکستان میں میڈیا اداروں کا زیادہ تر انحصار حکومتی اشتہاروں پر ہے۔
ڈان میڈیا گروپ کے اروڑہ میگزین کے مطابق 2016-17 میں اشتہارات کا حجم621 ملین ڈالرزسے کم ہوکر 2017-18میں578 ملین ڈالرز تک گر گیا ہے۔
پاکستان فیڈرل یونین آف جرنلسٹس کے مطابق اسی کو بنیاد بنا کر اب تک پورے پاکستان میں آٹھ سو سے زائد صحافیوں اور4000 تک دیگر ملازمین کو میڈیا اداروں سے فارغ کیا گیا۔
’خیبر پختونخوا سے ریٹنگ نہ ہونے کے برابر‘
پشاور میں ایک بڑے میڈیا گروپ کے ماریٹنگ دفتر میں کام کرنے والے ملازم نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو نام نہ ظاہر کرنے کی شرط پر بتایا سارے میڈیا اداروں نے پشاور کو کراچی،لاہور اور اسلام آباد کے بعد تیسری کٹیگری میں ڈالا ہے کیونکہ یہاں سے اشتہارات اور ویورشپ نہ ہونے کے برابر ہے۔
’ آپ اس بات سے اندازہ لگائیں کہ صرف لاہور شہر میں 60 سے زائد کیبل آپریٹرز ہیں اور ہر ایک کے پاس 30 ہزار سے زائد صارف ہیں جبکہ پشاور میں صرف دس آپریٹرز کے پاس کے ساتھ چار سے پانچ ہزار کسٹمر جسٹررڈ ہیں۔
انھوں نے ٹی وی ریٹنگ کے بارے میں بتایا کہ خیبرپختونخوا کے شہروں پشاور، کوہاٹ اور مردان میں ٹی وی ریٹنگ ناپنے والے آلے یا میٹرز لگائے گئے ہیں، جس سے حاصل ہونے والی ریٹنگ کا چینلز کے مجموعی ریٹنگ پوائنٹس پر کوئی اثر نہیں پڑتا اور یہی وجہ ہے یہ علاقے چینلز کے لیے بزنس کے حوالے سے اتنا اہم نہیں سمجھے جاتے۔
اس سارے صورتحال پر انڈپینڈنٹ اردو نے خیبر پختونخوا کے صوبائی وزیر اطلاعات شوکت یوسفزئی سے موقف لینے کی کوشش کی لیکن جب ان سے صحافیوں کی برطرفی کے حوالے سے سوال کیا گیا تو انھوں نے فون بند کردیا۔