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Anxious About Their Futures and Disillusioned by Politicians: Today’s Teenagers

Black Lives matter Peaceful Protest supporters chant and raise their hands in a fist at the Duke Kanamoku Statue after marching from Ala Moana Beach Park.

Navigating adolescence has always had its challenges, but recent polling reveals that today’s young Americans are feeling particularly uneasy. A survey conducted by Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group, found that only one-third of respondents aged 12 to 17 believe that things are going well for children and teenagers today. Additionally, less than half of them express optimism about their future prospects compared to their parents’ generation, echoing similar sentiments among teenagers in other affluent nations.

Another survey, conducted by Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation, paints a similarly disheartening picture. It shows that members of Generation Z (ages 12 to 27) are significantly less confident about their current and future lives compared to millennials when they were the same age. Particularly striking is the decline in mental health optimism, with only 15 percent of those aged 18 to 26 rating their mental health as excellent.

These surveys offer valuable insights into the concerns of teenagers today, highlighting their anxieties about life, disillusionment with the state of the country, and pessimism about their future prospects. This sentiment poses a challenge for political campaigns, as youth engagement and turnout appear to be dwindling. Despite their passion for issues like climate change and abortion, many teenagers feel disconnected from politicians and the political system at large.

Education emerges as a primary concern for teenagers, with many identifying the need for improvements or reforms to the education system as crucial for enhancing children’s lives. However, a majority of teenagers believe that public K-12 schools are falling short, with pandemic-related learning loss exacerbating the problem.

Mental health also emerges as a pressing issue, with a significant portion of teenagers attributing mental health issues to the negative impact of social media and online bullying. This concern is mirrored by adults, who also express worry about the well-being of children and teenagers in their communities.

Overall, these surveys underscore the interconnected nature of teenagers’ concerns about politics, education, mental health, social media, and their financial futures. Addressing these worries requires a comprehensive approach that acknowledges the central role of investing in children and young people in shaping the future of society.

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