America’s Teens in Trouble

Chad Varga AssemblyEvery month I write a blog and many of them concerning the desperate state of America’s youth and the need for our character education assembly programs in schools. The reason we continue to try and inform people of this need is because of what we are seeing in the youth of our nation’s public school systems. I often wonder if people realize what our children and grand children are being exposed to. I will try and give you a glimpse through my next two blogs.

Brian Graden, MTV’s president of programming said: “I can’t help but be worried that we are throwing so much at young adults so fast. And that there is no amount of preparation or education or even love that you could give a child to be ready.”

Today’s Teens Targeted and Exploited…

  • Advertising to teens is an estimated $150 billion a year industry.
  • Nearly 61% of all television programming contains violence, with children’s programming being the most violent.
  • MTV is watched by 73% of boys and 78% of girls ages 12 to 19, and it is profoundly influential in the lives of its young fans by glamorizing drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity and violent behavior.
  • MTV airs 9 sexual scenes per hour and more than 8 un-bleeped profanities per hour.
  • One in five children ages 10-17 that regularly use the Internet has received a sexual solicitation while online.
  • One in four children were unwillingly exposed to images of naked people or people having sex.
  • 90% of 8-16-year-olds have seen pornography online, most while doing homework.
  • 80% of 15-17-year-olds have had multiple hard-core pornographic exposures.

Today’s Teens and Sex…

  • 34 percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20Ñabout 820,000 a year.
  • Approximately four million teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year.
  • 8,000 teenagers contract an STD every day.
  • An estimated half of all new HIV infections occur in people under age 25.

 A Huge Task…

As you can see, we have a huge task in front of us to partner with educators across America in our effort to instill principles, values, and ethics that will somehow cut through all the wrong messages being sent to our young people today. As we launch into another year of school assemblies, we need your help now more than ever to truly make a difference in this generation of students. Our schools are the fountainhead from which will come nearly every future business person, lawmaker, school teacher, and parent in America. As we invest in them today, we are building a better America for tomorrow-one school at a time!


Lessons From History

Past:Future PicThe statistics are overwhelming. A noticeable lack of respect, integrity, and leadership is what seems to be defining this generation of students. Imagine an America where truth is relative…where tolerance means silence…where concern over the trivial dominates the TV media (reality shows). While we’ve certainly seen a decline in morality in America over the last 40 years, I believe that we are on the verge of an unprecedented shift in the ethical climate of our nation. Some people have even said that what I do through speaking to students is really just fighting an uphill battle; that there’s no way we can make a real difference. I guess that we could use that as an excuse and say they’re right, and accept the fact that there is no possible way to see true change in the character of today’s teens. Fortunately, we have the audacity to believe that this change is possible and the future can be bright for our Nations youth.

As I look at history, however, no one was ever remembered for accepting the status quo or simply taking a back seat when they saw an injustice. No, history remembers those who chose to stand up while others sat down, to speak up when others were silent, and to sacrifice while others were sulking. What if today, we decided to stand up for truth, speak up against injustice, and make a sacrifice that will launch the next generation toward their dreams instead of complaining about what we don’t have? Every indisputably great person who changed the course of history had these incredible qualities.

The Time is Now!

HelpMany people say that this generation of teenagers is a lost generation. No other generation in history has been so plagued by drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, and greed at such a young age. Everyone knows something terrible has happened in the social development of today’s youth. Crime and violence have become so common that many schools throughout the country have metal detectors installed at the entrances. The reality is our culture has become so tolerant that it is inadvertently creating a perversion of our youth and the downward spiral has become blatantly obvious.

Our entire society is experiencing an ethical collapse and this collapse has become so urgent that most leaders in education acknowledge that our foundations are being threatened. Our nations’ media and entertainment outlets seem to be more concerned about ratings than the effects their programs are having on our teenagers. You have to wonder what kind of world we are living in where many of our country’s leaders look the other way while these destructive ideals are being pushed on our youth. So many of our young people have been robbed of all moral concepts.

We all should be burdened by what we see and motivated to play a part in initiating change to inspire our youth through character development. It’s time we take responsibility and give of our time, resources, and talents to instill the time-tested results that good character traits provide. Test scores are important, but infusing personal character development into the daily academic routine for students is ultimately what will address these areas of need and create a better society for the future.

What Are We Creating?

troubled-teensThere is no question that America’s youth are facing tremendous challenges that are holding them back from reaching their full potential. Risky behaviors, including alcohol, illegal drug and tobacco use, violence, and early sexual activity, are among the leading causes for unreached potential in teenagers.  However, I believe the reason these problems exist for our nations youth are much deeper than the visible surface issues of just risky behaviors.  I am convinced, that a majority of teenagers’ problems exist because of the steady decline of value systems, the lack of parental involvement, and the gradual move away from teaching the importance of having good character.

Studies indicate that a lot of people are afraid of the kind of society we are becoming in the United States.  Many people think that there is some significant difference between kids today and kids “like we were,” and they believe things are deteriorating.  Based on 14 years of speaking to more than 3 million people I am convinced that things are deteriorating and believe that most Americans are genuinely concerned by the world they see.   Its almost as though we’ve lost interest in raising children in our society, and a good deal of our problem comes from that.  Teenagers today are spending more time with their friends and less time with adult supervision and the results are that they have become responsible for socializing one another.

Parents and teachers see the need and feel as if they are not equipped to do a good enough job and are asking themselves, “How can we better influence the kind of people that our kids become?”  Simply put, parents and teachers are desperate for help and are looking to companies like ours who provide real and authentic character development assemblies, programs and resources.

Character education is needed in every school in the United States regardless of demographics; from urban to rural, the need exists.  It is vital for every student, regardless of background, ethnicity or societal status.  Youth throughout America face the same needs, the same challenges, and the same realities in their lives.  I believe in order to mold and shape the value systems of teenagers, we have to be willing to devote more time, effort and resources that will inspire, educate and equip them to embrace character as a lifestyle. I may be old school but I still believe that integrity, respect, honesty, perseverance, compassion and courage are the fundamental building blocks for building a better society.

Just think what life would be like in the future if teenagers were encouraged to embrace a lifestyle of doing whatever they wanted, without regard for consequences. The most important thing in life would be to get exactly what you want, whenever you want, and by any means necessary. Thus, you have the absolute right to do whatever you have to do, to satisfy whatever desire, craving, or wish you have.  Tell the truth at all times, unless it’s to your advantage to lie, deceive, or tell a partial truth.  Never take responsibility for anything. That way, you never have to worry that you may have done the wrong thing. Blame the misfortunes of the world, and in your own life, on the poor judgment of other people.  Keep your promises, unless something better comes along.  Kindness is for wimps. Let your true feelings show, no matter how unpleasant they may be.  Show care and compassion for your fellow human beings, unless they’ve hurt you. In that case, all bets are off. Have little or no regard for how your actions affect other people. It’s their problem, not yours, if they’re offended or harmed by what you say or do.  Never, ever cheat, unless you can get away with it.  Do not, under any circumstance, report wrongdoings you observe. Don’t get involved. It’s none of your business. Always follow the New Golden Rule: “Do unto others before they do unto you.”  In other words…Think about yourself, and only about yourself, and you will be fine.

Seriously, how long could anyone live this way? What would the world look like if everyone followed these rules? It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s in our countries own best interest to teach our children the importance of character and to take ethics seriously.  Yes, it’s possible to imagine a world without character. But is that a world in which any rational person would want to live? 

The True Meaning of Tough

Tough kidThe latest research shows that 7% of high schoolers reported being threatened or injured by a weapon on school property; 20% reported being bullied; and 33% reporting being in a physical fight within the last year. Whether or not you’ve been on one side of those statistics, there’s something important I want you to know: being tough isn’t about controlling, intimidating, bullying, dissing or defeating another person. In fact, there’s nothing easier than making yourself look and feel good by making someone else look and feel bad. Needing to diminish the value of others in order to increase your value is a sure sign of weakness. And it’s not the path to reaching your dreams.

We live in a world where we often see and hear people forcing their way through life, leaving a trail of others behind them all in the name of success. It’s a lie that you shouldn’t believe. The success that comes with that behavior is an empty, lonely success that won’t last. While being a confident and assertive person is an important quality, being confident and assertive is not the same thing as being cocky and aggressive. If you are cocky, you don’t care about what others think or feel—you just do “your thing” with an air of aggression and apathy. On the other hand, if you are truly confident, you know how to assert yourself in a respectful, conscientious manner. While everyone may not agree with you all the time, you never devalue someone for thinking or acting differently. In fact, if you truly believe in what you are doing and ultimately know it’s right, then you shouldn’t need to say a word—the results of your actions will eventually be proof enough.

In the end, those around you are never immune to your words and actions. None of us lives in a cave. But if you choose to do what’s right, and if you choose to value the lives of others as much as you value your own, while others won’t always agree with what you say and do, in time they will always come to respect you. And earning the respect of those who are different than you or don’t see eye-to-eye with you is the truest meaning of tough. Be truly tough.