Rob Callender with the third of three posts on the emerging Centennials generation: Youth is a time to embrace life with passion: Nearly three-quarters of teen Centennials (the generation born in 1997 or after that follows Millennials) say they “always try to have as much fun as possible.” But try not to confuse that free-wheeling sentiment with nihilism or reckless disregard. Teens today have better information than ever before, and (generally) they’re making better choices about their health and safety.
Sure, youth is a time of uncertainty—even some danger. Bit by bit, young people build on small freedoms until they achieve enough independence to potentially get themselves into a lot of trouble. The fact is that the teen brain isn’t fully wired yet, and big mistakes are expected. But the perception that teens delight in taking risk as a way of defying authority or annoying adults is simplistic and often wrong-headed.
In fact, young people have been growing more risk-averse for years. Back in 2005, more than half of 12- to 17-year-old Millennials said they enjoyed doing things that others consider risky or dangerous. In 2014, that figure among 12- to 17-year-old Centennials fell to just 30%.
Why would a generation we’re expecting to be fluid in mindset and bold in outlook still actively avoid risk? We believe the answer is that Centennials are learning about the challenges they will face—even basics like the uncertainty of the future—firsthand. As such, they’ll be better prepared to face the future—whether it’s good or not so good. They appear to be coming of age with eyes wide open, up on their toes.
But that doesn’t mean they’re looking to court danger. Risk is a luxury only when it’s scarce. We’ve repeatedly found that young people who say they’re faced with risk on a regular basis are far less open to voluntary participation in risky behavior.
As we’ve seen in recent decades: Armed with better information, teens make better (safer) choices.