Risky Teen Behavior Today: Less Smoking, More Texting While Driving


The kids-today version of Dazed and Confused is going to roughly as exciting as watching paint dry: Teen drinking and smoking have dropped dramatically, but high schoolers are pretty damn likely to text behind the wheel and spend long hours parked in front of the computer.

Go ahead and place your bets re: the amount of time before we get a back-in-my-day think piece about the glorious days when teens ran wild and free.

The AP reports on the results of the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which updates everyone on the latest trends in teen endangerment. Apparently, they’re turning into a bunch of health nuts.

The big news: Teens barely smoke cigarettes anymore. (There’s always college!) (Do not smoke.) In 1991, when the CDC began keeping track, 27 percent of teens smoked. As of 2013, just 15.7 percent smoked. Of course, zero percent would be better, and these numbers don’t mean they’re not smoking hookah or (ugh) puffing on e-cigs. But it’s major progress. Drinking fell slightly, too: 35 percent said they’d had a drink in the last month. In 2011, it was 39 percent. Hell, they’re even drinking less soda—consumption fell from 34 percent in 2007 to 27 percent.

Incidentally, in the same period, the number of pot smokers has grown from 15 percent to 23 percent. Do with that what you will.

They don’t fight as much, either. In 1991, 42 percent of high school students had been in a physical fight within the last year. As of 2013, that number had dropped to 25 percent. (Maybe because they’re now stoned instead of drunk?)

“It’s encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex,” said CDC director Tom Frieden.

But their electronics are basically trying to kill them. Among kids who drive, 41 percent copped to texts or email while driving. GUYS. Over the last decade, the pop spending three or more hours of playtime on a computer/smartphone/console has climbed 22 percent to 41 percent. By the way, that’s bigger than the number who’ve stopped watching so much TV (43 percent in 1999; 32 percent in 2013), so it’s not like Beavis and Butthead have simply relocated.

The numbers were most mixed in the sexy sex times department. The percentage of sexually active kids has dropped from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2003. But condom use slid over the last decade, from 63 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2013.

Did they stop showing the slideshows about what syphilis does to your dick? Because guess what, kids—that shit ain’t going anywhere.

Photo via CREATISTA/Shutterstock.

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