The reality gap between parents and teens today

Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed School Psychologist & Author explains how the reality gap between parents and today has been one of the largest in recent history and how that has had effects
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The reality gap between parents and teens today

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Stephen Wallace: In the first year of my 6 year rolling Teens Today study that I did for Students Against Destructive Decisions, I found what I call a disconnect between the real world that kids live in and the make-believe world that many of their parents think that they live in. Or hope that they live in, or desperately want to believe that they live in. And that reality gap shows in some pretty significant ways. For example, compared to what their parents say about them, high school students are 8 times more likely to say that they are using alcohol, they’re 4 times more likely to say that they’re using other drugs, and they’re twice as likely to say that they’re having sex. Again, compared to what their parents say about them. That disconnect, that reality gap, leaves parents on the sidelines when it comes to influencing their child’s choices. Since I wrote Reality Gap, the biggest change I’ve seen is the proliferation of social networking. And those social networking opportunities from social networking sites really changed the way that young people communicate with each other, influence each other, and make decisions. I think social media has both great potential and great pitfalls. It has great potential that it helps kids stay connected to their peer group. As pitfalls, because young people often use social media to spread photographs or information about destructive behaviors they may be engaging in. It creates a social norming effect. In other words, it creates a new norm or perceived norm for how many in one’s peer group engage in one particular behavior. You ask young people for example, what percentage of your peer group uses alcohol? They will tell you it’s in the high 98th percentile when of course it is not. It’s in the low 60th percentile. But social media creates the perception that everybody’s doing it.

Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed School Psychologist & Author explains how the reality gap between parents and today has been one of the largest in recent history and how that has had effects

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Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed

School Psychologist & Author

Stephen Gray Wallace, director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE), has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent and family counselor. He is also the senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), an organization he served as national chairman and chief executive officer for more than fifteen years. 

Stephen serves the Cape Cod Sea Camps as a resident camp director and the director of counseling and counselor training and the American Camp Association as a feature magazine writer, media spokesperson and faculty member at its e-Institute for Professional Development, a role he also plays for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The White House, the American Camp Association, SADD, Camping Magazine, and the Susquehanna University Alumni Association have formally honored Stephen for being a tireless and passionate advocate for youth.

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