Commonwealth Journal

Columns

June 13, 2014

A little guidance on the safety of our teens

Somerset —

If you’re the parent of a teen, there’s good news. Your child is less likely to drink and smoke these days, and less likely to fight at school. Unfortunately, they’re also likely to text behind the wheel when they reach driving age, and they’re much more immersed in video games, the Internet and their handy smartphone.
These results were gleaned from a test of 13,000 U.S. high school students last spring. This survey has been conducted since 1991.
Times have certainly changed. In 1991, there were no smartphones or computer usage. But there was certainly smoking, drinking, drugs and sex.
So is your child safer now than teens were nearly 25 years ago?
The truth is, it’s a mixed bag.
Fewer than 16 percent of teens surveyed said they smoked a cigarette within a month of taking the test — the lowest level since the government started the survey. At that time, more than 27 percent of those studied said they smoked cigarettes,
It's "terrific news for America's health," Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Associated Press.
However, more than 23 percent of teens said they used marijuana in the previous month — up from 15 percent in 1991. CDC officials said they could not tell whether marijuana or e-cigarettes have replaced traditional cigarettes among teens.
Kids in the survey also seem to be drinking healthier — less booze and less soft drinks. About 35 percent said they had partaken in alcohol in the previous month, down from 39 percent in 2011. About 27 percent said they drank soda each day. That was only a slight change from 2011 but a sizable drop from 34 percent in 2007.
There’s a trend in schools to battle bullying and violence. That was reflected in the study — fights at school fell by half in the past 20 years. And there was a dramatic drop in kids reporting they had been in a fight anywhere in the preceding year — about 25 percent, down from 33 percent two years earlier. The addition of more guards and other security measures may be a factor, said school violence expert Todd DeMitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

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    These results were gleaned from a test of 13,000 U.S. high school students last spring. This survey has been conducted since 1991.

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