‘Cautious generation’ bodes well for parents

Published 11:36 pm Thursday, June 9, 2016

Finally we have some encouraging news for parents of high school teenagers.

A government survey of risky youth behaviors shows that teens are drinking less, smoking fewer cigarettes and have a lot less sex than they were 10 years ago.

The anonymous and voluntary survey is conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 16,000 students at 125 high schools took part, and the results are encouraging for parents:

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

• Only 30 percent of the students surveyed said they’d had sex in the previous three months, down from almost 35 percent in each of the prior six surveys.

• Fewer than 11 percent of the teens smoked a cigarette in the previous month, the lowest level since the government started doing the survey. The CDC estimates the high school smoking rate at only about 9 percent, down from a high of 27 percent when the survey began.

• About a third of the students reported having an alcoholic drink in the prior 30 days, down from 35 percent two years ago and 45 percent in 2007.

Of course, some of the news was less encouraging.

• Just under 22 percent said they used marijuana in the previous month, down only a bit from the pervious two surveys.

• About 17 percent said they had taken prescription drugs without a prescription.

• And about 24 percent had used electronic cigarettes or vaping products in the previous month, a higher percentage than estimated in other CDC studies.

Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told the Associated Press that today’s teens might be dubbed “the cautious generation” and the results seem to indicate that.

While no one likes to think about teens partaking in risky behaviors, ignoring the dangers won’t keep teens safe. And knowing what teens are doing – and with whom – gives parents, educators and mentors the opportunity to intervene and shift those risky behaviors.

We’d like to think that educational programs like Abstinence in Motion and its Mentoring Matters efforts are making a difference on local levels. Those, combined with strong parental guidance and family values; national efforts to educate teens about the dangers of everything from drugs to unprotected sex and texting and driving; and the ready access to information about the negative health effects of these risky behaviors might be making a difference.

And we’d like to think that this “cautious generation” will be the start of a continuing trend, for the sake of all our children.