Young people are drinking and doing drugs less than ever before

Here’s an alternate theory: The kids actually want to be all right. The research into drug prevention examined by Scientific American indicates that programs focused on peer interactions are more effective, suggesting that perhaps rising levels of abstinence are a generational feature, on par with teens’ ridiculous vocabulary or preference for a smartphone over a person.

If risky behavior was once seen as a trademark of youth, today’s teens tend to be more risk-averse, a portrait of “the responsible generation.” Even cringe-worthy trend stories on juice crawls and morning raves may have their social roots in a generational optimism that’s become a defining trait in contrast to the cynicism of Generation X and self-congratulatory pessimism of the Baby Boomers.

We can see the kernels of this mindset in the demography of this generation’s crop of youths. Avoiding unhealthy behavior has been accompanied by “enthusiastically taking up socially beneficial activities” like volunteerism, charity, and social activism, as Eric H. Greenberg, author of Generation We, puts it.