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Teen: Child Development (cont.)

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How can parents ensure the safety of their teen 12-17 years of age?

Parents of teens growing up in the 1960s were constantly worrying about the proposed lifestyle of the time..."sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll." Those teens have now become parents of teenagers themselves, and the irony that the same concerns have come full circle is not lost on many.

A 1977 study commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that approximately half of all high school students self-reported having had one consensual sexual intercourse.

In 2010, the CDC Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance, 2009 revealed that this had not changed much, and of the 34% of self-reported sexually active teens, 39% did not use a condom during the last sexual intercourse. This explains why of the annual 19 million new sexually transmitted disease infections, almost half are among teens and young adults 15-24 years of age. In 2002, 12% of all pregnancies (757,000 pregnancies) occurred among adolescents 15-19 years of age. In addition, this same publication outlined that the majority (72%) of deaths that occur in adolescents resulted from four preventable causes:

  1. Motor vehicle accidents
  2. Other unintentional injuries (falls, etc.)
  3. Homicide
  4. Suicide

The study also concluded that it was not all bad news and that "since 1991, the prevalence of many health risk behaviors among high school students nationwide had decreased."

Health issues play a major factor in the safety aspects of teenagers. Drug experimentation and suboptimal nutrition (fad diets, limited calcium intake, skipping breakfast, etc.) are risky behaviors which may pay out both short-term and long-term consequences. Likewise, an unrealistic body image concern contributes to the rising incidence of eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia nervosa) and of the use of performance-enhancing supplements (for example, androgenic steroids). Equally of concern is the obesity epidemic in this age range (16% are overweight or obese, and 30% describe themselves as overweight). Studies have clearly demonstrated that the likelihood of an overweight/obese teen successfully losing excess weight and maintaining their healthy weight is less than 10%; thus, the vast majority of overweight/obese teens will remain so during their adult lifetime. As such, the secondary effects (endocrine, cardiovascular, orthopedic, etc.) have caused some researchers to predict that the current teen generation may be the first in many that may not have a longer life span than their parents.

Alcohol is the most frequently abused drug in the United States -- surpassing tobacco (nicotine) and illicit drugs combined. Alcohol related deaths number approximately 75,000 per year with over 40% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents alcohol related. The most recent and comprehensive nationwide survey results were published in 2010 by the CDC. They include the following:

  1. Forty-two percent of high school students reported a minimum of a single alcoholic drink (liquor, wine or beer) in the month prior to the survey.
  2. Twenty-four percent of high school students reported episodic binge drinking (defined as the alcoholic equivalent of five liquor drinks in four hours characteristically associated with vomiting or passing out) in the month prior to the survey.
  3. Twenty-one percent of high school students had their first drink (not in the home or religious setting) prior to 13 years of age.
  4. Ten percent of high school students reported driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in the month prior to the survey.
  5. Twenty-eight percent of high school students reported riding in a car driven by someone who had been drinking in the month prior to the survey.
  6. Five percent of high school students reported drinking on high school property in the month prior to the survey.

Illicit drug experimentation and abuse by high school students is extremely prevalent. The 2007 CDC study cited above indicated the following:

  1. Twenty-three percent of high school students surveyed reported being offered, sold, or given illegal drugs (excluding alcohol) on school property in the month prior to the survey.
  2. Twenty-one percent of high school students reported marijuana use at least once in the month prior to the survey; 13% reported use of inhalants, 6% reported use of Ecstasy, 4% reported use of methamphetamines, and 3% reported use of cocaine (including crack and freebase varieties).
  3. Thirty-seven percent of high school students reported marijuana use at least once in their life.


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