Advances in technology mean today's teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever seen. While some issues are not exactly new, electronic media has changed or amplified some of the struggles young people face. In fact, the average teen spends over nine hours each day using their electronic devices.
Their social media habits and media consumption are changing the way young people communicate, learn, sleep, and exercise.
Here are the top 10 things today's teens struggle with:
Depression rates are growing among adolescents, especially in girls. Some researchers blame technology for the rise in mental health problems. Spending too much time on electronic devices may be preventing young people from engaging in sports or peer activities that help ward off depression.
Depressive disorders are treatable but it's important to seek professional help. if your teen seems withdrawn, experiences a change in his sleep patterns, or starts to perform badly in school, schedule an appointment with your teen's physician or contact a mental health professional.
Talk to your teen about bullying regularly. Discuss what she can do when she witnesses bullying and talk about options if she becomes a target.
Being proactive can prevent be key to helping your child deal with a bully. It's important to talk to your child about when and how to get help from adult.
3. Sexual activity
Based on the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance data, 41 percent of high school students reported being sexually active. That means sexual activity had declined slightly over the past decade.
Fortunately, the teen birth rate has declined over the years. Births to teens ages 15 to 19 accounted for 5.3 percent of all births in 2016.
The decline in pregnancy doesn't necessarily mean teens are using protection, however. Of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases each year, more than half were among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Surveys show most parents don't believe their children are sexually active, however. Talk to your teen about sex, even if you don't think your child is engaging in sexual activity.
4. Drug use
In 2017, 6 percent of twelfth graders reported using marijuana daily. Marijuana use exceeds cigarette use is in teens now. Surveys show teens believe marijuana is less harmful now than in years past. This may be due to the changing laws surrounding marijuana.
Fortunately, other illicit drug use has held steadily at the lowest levels in over two decades. The peak drug use for teens was in 1996.
Hold regular conversations about the dangers of drugs. And don't forget to mention the dangers of prescription drugs. Many teens do not recognize the dangers of taking a friend's prescription or popping a few pills that are not prescribed to them.
Unfortunately, many teens underestimate how easy it is to develop an addiction. And they don't understand the risks associated with overdosing.
5. Alcohol use
It's important to hold regular conversations about the risks of underage drinking. Educate your teen about the dangers. Alcohol can take a serious toll on a teenager's developing brain.
Express your disapproval of underage drinking. Saying you don't approve can make a big difference in whether your teen decides to drink.
Obese children are at a much greater risk of lifelong health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. Surveys show parents are bad at recognizing when their kids are overweight. They tend to underestimate their child's size and the risks associated with being overweight.
Talk to your child's pediatrician about the weight and body mass are appropriate for your teen's height and age and inquire about the steps you can take to ensure your teen is healthy.
7. Academic problems
It's no longer just the "troubled teens" who are dropping out of school. Some teens feel so much pressure to get into a good college that they're burning themselves out before they graduate from high school.
Stay involved in your teen's education. Provide support and guidance and be ready to assist your teen if he encounters problems.
8. Peer pressure
While peer pressure isn't a new issue, social media brings it to a whole new level. Sexting, for example, is a major cause for concern as many teens do not understand the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives.
Give your teen skills to make healthy choices and to resist peer pressure. Talk to your teen about what to do if she makes a mistake. Sometimes, kids can make poor choices and may be too afraid to seek help. Encourage your teen to talk you when he or she makes a mistake.
9. Social media
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great ways for teens to connect with one another. But, social media can be problematic for several reasons.
No matter what precautions you take, teens are still likely to be exposed to unsavory people, unhealthy images, and sexual content online. While there are measures being put into place to reduce the risks kids face online, it's important for parents to get involved.
Know what your teen is doing online. Educate yourself about the latest apps, websites, and social media pages teens are using and take steps to keep your teen safe.
10. On-screen violence
Teenagers are going to witness some violent media at one time or another. And it's not just TV and movies that depict violence. Many of today's violent video games portray gory scenes and disturbing acts of aggression.
Over the past couple of decades, a multitude of studies linked watching violence to a lack of empathy. And studies show the number one factor in determining how kids relate to media is how their parents think and act.
Pay attention to your teen's media use. Don't allow teens to watch R-rated movies or to play M-rated video games. It's not good for them to consume that material.
Talk to your teen about the dangers of being exposed to violent images and monitor your teen's mental state. It's also important to talk about sexual situations and racial stereotypes that your teen might see.
--- Amy Morin
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