Co-authored by Jason Gracia, Founder of The Expert Agency, and author of Shifting the Balance.
From the minute we open our eyes to the moment we close them for sleep, today’s media works overtime to remind us just how dangerous the world has become. It’s a miracle, we’re led to believe, just to survive the week.
As adults, the relentless news about danger and disease and destruction and death — often untimely — can rattle us, but we’re able to dampen the news with a bit of perspective; we know how the media machine works. Teens, on the other hand, often lack the ability. The bleeding news hits them full force.
So much of what I aim to do in my work with teens becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, when they see the world as a frightening, dangerous place. Goals and the like can’t compete. But everything changes when I push aside the media and hype and reveal the reality of the world we live in.
Though I wish I could do the same for your kids, you’ll have to take the lead and show them the world, not as the media machine portrays it, but as it actually is.
Let’s start with danger. The 24-hour news cycle makes it appear as though death is at our front door, most often in the form of terrorism. While it’s undeniable that certain parts of the world are more dangerous than others (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan), the threat of terrorism within the United States is, as CNN’s Jim Sciutto says, “…miniscule. One estimate puts it about one in 20 million.” Though risk is ever present, these odds should put your children at ease.
Violence overall has also been on a drastically steep decline. In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker makes the unquestionable case for this decline, statistically demonstrating a hundredfold decrease in homicide rates since their peak 500 years ago. We’re living in the safest time in history.
Next let’s tackle how long, on average, we’re going to live. As Peter Diamandis outlines in his breakthrough book, Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think, the average human lifespan has nearly doubled in the past 100 years.
In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging,
The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th century ranks as one of society’s greatest achievements. Although most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth now exceeds 83 years in Japan — the current leader — and is at least 81 years in several other countries.
People around the globe are living longer, healthier lives. Take into consideration the advances in longevity just around the corner and making it to triple digits will one day be commonplace.
When it comes to poverty, humankind is moving the right direction. Diamandisshows that poverty has “declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. Over the last 50 years, in fact, even while the Earth’s population has doubled, the average per capita income globally (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled.”
He goes on to remind us that the majority of today’s poor “have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even a car. Go back 150 years and the richest robber barons couldn’t have ever hoped for such wealth.”
These are the facts. They may not be startling or scary enough to garner attention on the nightly news, but they paint the accurate picture of our world. We are safer, healthier, and richer now than we have ever been. This is the story we need to tell our children. Danger exists, as does death and destruction, but chance favors a long and happy life for those willing to seize it.