It’s a fact that many organizations use statistics to make the case for their existence. This practice of cherry-picking data helps paint pictures that many young people are druggies, alcoholics, sex maniacs, super predators, etc. and fail to consider data about adult pathological behaviors.
Here’s one example:
A nationwide survey of police agencies found only 25 documented cases of rape, physical violence, abduction, or other harms to youth inflicted by people they met online in 2005, a year in which child maltreatment authorities substantiated more than 250,000 cases of physical and sexual violence against youths within families, nearly all inflicted by parents. (“Trends in Arrests of Online Predators” by Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor and Kimberly Mitchell, The Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham NH, 2007).
A free portal, YouthFACTS.org, “seeks to debunk the barrage of modern mistruths about youth, restore a climate of fairness and integrity when discussing youth issues, advance verifiable and evidence-based information to better inform youth policy, enhance the integration of youth into democratic and multi-cultural citizenship, and build a culture that values and trusts its young people.”
In addition to relying on this website, I believe anyone working on issues involving young people should read articles and books by Mike Males, the principal investigator for YouthFACTS.org and senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco. He is the author of five books on American youth including Teenage Sex and Pregnancy: Modern Myths, Unsexy Realities (Praeger, 2010), Framing Youth: Ten Myths about the Next Generation (Common Courage Press,1999) and The Scapegoat Generation: America’s War on Adolescents (Common Courage Press, 1996).
The other brain behind YouthFACTS.org is Dr. Anthony Bernier, Associate Professor and a critical youth studies scholar at California’s San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. He gives this warning:
“So many interests and media across the political spectrum manufacture such grossly inaccurate things about youth then recycle each other’s worst inaccuracies that we can promise a site that is both non-ideological and offensive to ideologues. And, unlike entrenched interests, we’ll respond seriously to challenges and corrections.”
So lob tough questions to Males & Bernier and equally important, make sure young people absorb and analyze data from many sources, including this site.