Maybe the kids are OK after all.
Many, no doubt, were surprised by the results of a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and MTV on the nature of happiness among America's young people. It is easy to imagine that the answers to the question of what makes young people happy might include sex, drugs and alcohol, money, running wild with friends or various forms of illicit behavior.
The real answer? The top response from people ages 13 to 24 when asked what made them happy was -- spending time with family. And nearly three-quarters of respondents say their relationship with their parents makes them happy.
The other answers also seemed to belie the myth that kids are happiest when getting into trouble. Next to spending time with family, they like to spend time with friends, followed by time with a significant other.
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As for money, while everybody wants it, almost none of the young people tied it to their general happiness. And being sexually active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17 year-olds, according to the survey. Those 18 to 24 said sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but not in general.
Spirituality ranks high on the list of important positive influences on life. More than half of those questioned said they believe there is a higher power that has an influence over things that make them happy. And simply belonging to an organized religious group makes them happier.
Here's a shocker for parents: You are your children's heroes. When it comes to people they most admire, young people made their parents the collective top pick. Twenty-nine percent chose their mothers; 21 percent name their fathers and 16 percent picked their parents without specifying which one.
That may make many parents justifiably proud. But it also illustrates the influence parents have over their children and the responsibility to use that influence in positive ways. So, while being a hero to one's children may be gratifying, it also serves as a challenge to be a good role model, guardian and teacher.
Newspapers sometimes are accused of focusing only on bad behavior by young people, such as Friday's front-page story about the teenagers accused of being involved in a plot to bomb a school. Those stories always are news.
But in recent weeks, The Herald also has highlighted stories about young people involved in wholesome activities, often activities designed to help others. The paper had a picture of football players from York Comprehensive High School who painted the home of a 91-year-old fan. We also had stories about young people involved in Christian service groups such as World Changers and Salkahatchie.
We had a story about a young woman from York who has a junior division world title in horseshoe tossing, and another about a Rock Hill teen who is a national champion in amateur motocross.
We had a story about a young woman who gave her life for her country in Iraq and was brought home to western Chester and York counties, her final resting place. And we had a story about a young soldier from York who was awarded the Purple Heart after he was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
We had stories about children going back to school and college students arriving at Winthrop University. We had stories about high school athletes and band members practicing in 100-plus degree heat. And we had a story about how all York County high schools topped the state average in ACT scores.
And in many cases, the good news is that there is no news at all about young people splattered across the front page. The actual good news is that thousands of young people in the community are going to school, going to jobs, having fun in responsible ways, going to church, spending time with their families and growing up healthy.
Think of that the next time you hear about young people who went down the wrong path. They are the unusual ones, not the good kids.
Poll indicates that most of today's young people have chosen the right priorities in life.
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