A recent comprehensive national survey on the ethics of our nation’s youth revealed a shocking lack of morals. It is disheartening to know that among high school students, in the last 12 months:
- Nearly two-thirds (71 percent) admit they cheated on an exam at least once
- Almost all (92 percent) lied to their parents
- Over two-thirds (78 percent) lied to a teacher
- Forty percent of males and 30 percent of females say they stole something from a store
What does this mean to us as parents and other caring adults? First, we can’t naively assume that teens are telling us the truth. Certainly, we want to believe the best, but it behooves us to have our parental antennae out for suspicious behaviors, or cagey answers. When it comes to behaviors that threaten emotional and physical health (like sexual experimentation, smoking, drinking and drugs) we may want to put our teens’ health above our desire to respect their privacy. Yes, that means it may be OK to snoop, especially when a teen is insisting on too much privacy, or is acting suspiciously. Second, it’s time to have serious conversations about all sorts of ethical issues. The online article reporting on this survey gives some guidelines that are really helpful.
If you assume that the school is covering these character issues, well, they may be. But it’s not going to have nearly the same impact as a conversation with you. Mentoring with an eye toward ethical adulthood is still best done by a caring adult. Go on a walk after dinner, take an example from the news (there’s always some politician or media star acting badly), or tell a story from your youth as a conversation starter. Be creative. Help your child gain the backbone he or she needs to shine in a generation that too often doesn’t seem to know right from wrong.