If you have a teen or a soon-to-be teen, you've likely had your friends shake their heads sadly and commiserate about the miserable parental ride ahead. And it's guaranteed you've worried about everything from drug abuse and raging hormones to learning to drive, texting and sexting and back talk.
But studies say there's a ray of light for the modern parent of a teen. In some ways, you were probably not as well-behaved as that adolescent you're trying to raise is. And the numbers bear it out.
Policymakers and experts will gather in Washington, D.C., next week to tackle what's being billed as the nation's No. 1 public health concern, substance abuse. By some measures, though, today's teens are better behaved than mom and dad were at their age.
As Tara Parker-Pope noted of teens this week in New York Times Magazine, "the current generation is, well, a bit boring when it comes to bad behavior." Among the evidence is data showing that they're less likely to smoke marijuana than their parents were and are less likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and take drugs than their folks 30 years ago.
Teens are "far less likely to have sex or get pregnant" than their parent's generation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite depictions of teens on TV shows that would indicate otherwise, "This is a lot more media hype around the kids who are raising hell," Dr. John Santelli, president-elect for the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, told her. "There are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible."
Others have reached the same conclusion. In December, the University of Michigan released its annual survey, Monitoring the Future. The survey found a continuation of a long and well-documented decline in alcohol use by teens. That's a survey of 47,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders nationwide. And the 2011 results marked historic lows.
A Health and Human Services study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also found record-low underage drinking.
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America's four-day conference kicks off with training sessions in areas as diverse as preventing prescription drug abuse to cutting down the number of alcohol outlets in a community. As many as 2,500 experts and community advocates are expected to take part.
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