Survey Of NZ Teenagers Reveals They Are Happy

August 9, 2013
Iain MacLeod

As regular readers of the Letters From New Zealand know I am a father of two teenage boys. One is about to turn twenty and hopefully leave the ‘dark years’ behind and the other is in full teenage rampage.

Like all parents of teenagers we wonder if they are better, worse or the same as we were. I confess upfront that what tempers me when dealing with my boys, who deep down I love and respect (I think), is that in them I see myself at the same age. How my parents survived me I cannot fathom.

My wife keeps telling me that the fact they are lazy, dirty, their rooms look like there has been a break in, they don’t load their dishes in the dishwasher unless commanded, like playing computer games till late at night when not Facebooking (and often both at once), don’t like helping around the house, think nothing of a hard night at the pub (one underage using fake ID) and chasing all manner of females and experimenting with (soft) drugs and thinking they are somehow owed an allowance each month, is entirely ‘normal’.

I hate to admit it but I know it to be so – for boys anyway – I was the same – just had no computer and Facebook lay far into the future.

I was intrigued then to read a survey published last week in the New Zealand Herald. It made me appreciate that perhaps my darkest fears that we are going to hand over this country to a bunch of disrespectful ratbags with square eyes might actually be displaced.

Those of you thinking of moving here might like to discuss this survey with your teenagers as I know how hard it can be to migrate with teenagers (even though they are too caught up in themselves most of the time to appreciate you are doing it for them) . Hells bells, living with them when you share a common culture is bad enough – as migrants you are going to turn them into a hybrid – your culture crossed with a Kiwi. You do realise don’t you that you are going to ‘Ruin their lives by making me leave my friends. How can you do this to me? I hate you. I HATE YOU!!!!” That sort of thing……

You can read the whole survey at Auckland University.

Virtually every teenage statistic is moving in the right direction. It is uplifting stuff to a frustrated parent anyway. Here are my highlights:

• Samoans were the most likely of the main groups to say they were very proud of their family’s culture (87 per cent), followed by Tongans (86 per cent), Cook Islanders and Niueans (both 81 per cent), Europeans (73 per cent), Maori (72 per cent), Indians (64 per cent) and Chinese (57 per cent).

• More than a quarter (29 per cent) of teens live in more than one home, usually because their parents have separated – the same as in 2007. Ninety per cent (unchanged) have a mother who acts as a parent for them but only 72.9 per cent (down from 76.4 per cent) have a father who acts as a parent.

• Most teens say they get enough time with their mother sometimes or most of the time; the number saying they “hardly ever” get enough time with Mum dropped from 14.2 per cent in 2007 to 10.8 per cent.

• Teens get less time with their fathers but the number who “hardly ever” get enough time with Dad was stable at 23.8 per cent.

• Unemployment has increased since recession hit, but the number of teens who have no parent in paid work is still surprisingly low at 3.6 per cent, up from just 1.8 per cent in 2007.

• Secondary school students themselves are much less likely to have a part-time job – down from 42 per cent in 2001 to 39 per cent in 2007 and just 26 per cent last year.

• Teens are more likely to like school a lot (29.1 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2007), and less likely to dislike it (down from 14.5 per cent in 2001 to 12.2 per cent in 2007 and just 9.8 per cent this time). The other 61.1 per cent like school “a bit” or think it’s “OK”.

• They are more likely to think teachers, coaches and other people at school care about them a lot – up from 23.2 per cent in 2001 to 25.1 per cent and 27.2 per cent in the two latest surveys.

• They are more likely to think teachers are fair most of the time – up from 42.8 per cent to 48.8 per cent and to 51.7 per cent in the latest survey.

• Almost all teens (86.9 per cent) feel safe at school all or most of the time, up from 78.1 per cent in 2001 and 83.5 per cent in 2007.

• Those who are bullied at school at least weekly has stayed low at 6 to 7 per cent in all three surveys. Those who didn’t go to school at least once in the last month because of bullying plunged from 9.5 per cent in 2001 to 4.1 per cent in 2007 and ticked up only marginally to 5.3 per cent this time.

• Three out of every eight teenage girls (37.8 per cent) are overweight or obese, up from 34.7 per cent in 2007.

• Boys who are overweight or obese crept up more slowly, from 34.4 per cent to 35.4 per cent.

• Most (68.5 per cent of boys and 56.5 per cent of girls) are doing at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical exercise at least three times a week, little changed from 2007 and more than in 2001.

• The numbers eating fast food at least four times a week have halved from 12.8 per cent to 6.4 per cent, and the numbers drinking fizzy drinks at least four times a week have more than halved from 29 per cent to 12.3 per cent.

• A lot more are using the internet at least an hour a day – up from 18.2 per cent in 2001 to 51.6 per cent in 2007 and now 67.6 per cent. Those watching TV for at least an hour a day rose from 55 per cent to 73.2 per cent between the first two surveys but have dropped back to 64.6 per cent in the latest survey.

• More than half (55.1 per cent) of boys, and 43.5 per cent of girls, are very happy or satisfied with their lives – both up slightly from 2007. Most of the others say life is OK, but 6.2 per cent of boys and 9.8 per cent of girls are not very happy or unhappy.

• Chastity is making a comeback. About a third of secondary school students in both the first two surveys (31.3 per cent, then 36.3 per cent) had had sex, but the number dropped in the latest survey to 24.4 per cent. However only 58.2 per cent of those who are sexually active always use contraception, about the same as in the first two surveys.

• Binge-drinking in the past four weeks has almost halved from 40.1 per cent of teens in 2001 to 34.4 per cent in 2007 and 22.6 per cent in 2012. Boys (23 per cent) and girls (22.2 per cent) are now almost equally likely to binge-drink.

• Teens smoking cigarettes at least weekly have collapsed from 15.5 per cent to 7.8 per cent and now just 4.5 per cent.

• Teens smoking marijuana at least weekly have halved from 6.7 per cent to 4.7 per cent and now 3.2 per cent.

• Spiritual beliefs are still very important for 28.1 per cent of teenagers, down slightly from 32.1 per cent in 2001 and 29.2 per cent in 2007.

• Numbers attending a place of worship at least once a week have been stable at 25.8 per cent in 2001, 28.8 per cent in 2007 and 25.8 per cent in the latest survey

So there you have it. Nice to know we are doing okay as parents.

Moving teenagers is never easy but they are clearly coming to a nurturing and welcoming education system and society where they overwhelmingly feel embraced. They feel culturally good about themselves as migrants (except strangely the Chinese – which might reflect the more causal local attitudes to education and life which is less restrictive and demanding from whence they came).

Leave a Reply

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?