Teens are drinking less, texting more A driver uses an iPhone while driving in Los Angeles
Teens are drinking less, texting more
Lexile

American teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. But they're texting behind the wheel and spending a lot of time on video games and computers, according to the government's latest study of worrisome behavior.

Generally speaking, the news is good. Most forms of drug use, weapons use and risky sex have been going down since the government started doing the survey every two years in 1991. Teens are wearing bicycle helmets and seat belts more, too.

"Overall, young people have more healthy behaviors than they did 20 years ago," said Dr. Stephanie Zaza, who oversees the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results come from a study of 13,000 U.S. high school students last spring. Participation was voluntary and required parental permission, but responses were anonymous.

Highlights of the study, released Thursday:

SMOKING

Fewer than 16 percent of the teens smoked a cigarette in the previous month the lowest level since the government started doing the survey, when the rate was more than 27 percent. Another CDC study had already put the teen smoking rate below 16 percent, but experts tend to treat this survey's result as the official number. It's "terrific news for America's health," said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Even so, there are still about 2.7 million teens smoking, he said.

The survey did not ask about electronic cigarettes, which have exploded in popularity in the past few years.

Meanwhile, more than 23 percent of teens said they used marijuana in the previous month up from 15 percent in 1991. CDC officials said they could not tell whether marijuana or e-cigarettes have replaced traditional cigarettes among teens.

TEXTING

Among teen drivers, 41 percent had texted or emailed behind the wheel in the previous month. That figure can't be compared to the 2011 survey, though, because the CDC changed the question this time. The latest survey gives texting-while-driving figures for 37 states ranging from 32 percent in Massachusetts to 61 percent in South Dakota.

DRINKING

Fewer teens said they drank alcohol. Drinking of soda was down, too. About 35 percent said they had had booze in the previous month, down from 39 percent in 2011. About 27 percent said they drank soda each day. That was only a slight change from 2011 but a sizable drop from 34 percent in 2007.

SEX

The proportion of teens who had sex in the previous three months held steady at about 34 percent from 2011. Among them, condom use was unchanged at about 60 percent.

SUICIDE

The percentage who attempted suicide in the previous year held steady at about 8 percent.

MEDIA USE

TV viewing for three or more hours a day has stalled at around 32 percent since 2011. But in one of the largest jumps seen in the survey, there was a surge in the proportion of kids who spent three or more hours on an average school day on other kinds of recreational screen time, such as playing video or computer games or using a computer or smartphone for something other than schoolwork. That number rose to 41 percent, from 31 percent in 2011.

Health experts advise that teens get no more than two hours of recreational screen time a day, and that includes all screens including Xboxes, smartphones and televisions.

Although video-gaming is up, particularly among teen boys, some researchers believe most of the screen-time increase is due to social media use. And it's probably not a good thing, they say.

Through texts and social media, young people are doing more communicating and living in an online world in which it's easier to think they're the center of the universe, said Marina Krcmar, a Wake Forest University professor who studies teen screen time. That can lead to a form of extended adolescence, she said.

It can also distract youngsters from schoolwork, exercise and other healthy activities, she said.

FIGHTING

Fights at school fell by half in the past 20 years. And there was a dramatic drop in kids reporting they had been in a fight anywhere in the preceding year about 25 percent, down from 33 percent two years earlier. The addition of more guards and other security measures may be a factor, said school violence expert Todd DeMitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

Fighting may be down, but it's not uncommon, according to some teens at the High School of Fashion Industries in lower Manhattan. Two students said they saw roughly one fight a week.

"It's like 'The Hunger Games,'" said 14-year-old Maya Scott. She said she had been in a fight during the current school year.

A few minutes later, as if to prove her point, three girls exchanged words and nearly came to blows outside the front entrance before a school lunch worker stepped in and separated them.

Critical thinking challenge: 2.7 million teens are still smoking why is this good news?

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COMMENTS (21)
  • devana
    6/13/2014 - 02:13 p.m.

    It's not good that teens continue to do unhealthy things. However it is great that most of these habits are going down! Hopefully they can continue to do so. Maybe in a few years the statistics can be even lower. All we need is a little determination.

  • SpencerG-4
    6/13/2014 - 06:46 p.m.

    Well this article is good and bad, its good that numbers of teen smokers are less but i dont fully agree.even though numbers are down i cant really tell the difference. Many kids smoke and drink and show no thought of stopping. I enjoyed this article it gave me information that I previously did not know. Some of these statistics shocked me and a good and bad way. Now I know the right statistics on who do and who don't do these type of things.

  • Lauren5987
    6/15/2014 - 08:15 p.m.

    Drinking and texting while driving are obvious causes of many accidents today. But when it comes down to it, nothing is going to stop either from happening whether it be a teen or adult. Another thing that can distract people while driving is blaring their music. It is annoying and dangerous. How is someone going to hear a ambulance, cop, or fire truck coming when they have their music on full blast?

  • amandad-
    6/18/2014 - 08:00 a.m.

    2.7 million of teens are still smoking is a good thing because back then teens smokes 27 percent and now teens smokes 16 percent so they smoke less. Texting is a bad thing because teens are addicted to technologies like computers, smart phones, Facebook, twitter and T.V. They do more texting media use than smoking, drinking and fighting. Teens get distracted from exercise, school work and healthy activities because of texting and media use.

  • John0724-YYCA
    6/23/2014 - 06:07 p.m.

    I think that it is good that teens are stop drinking,smoking,and fighting but worse they text more and play video games more. Well the thing is that if you do all those kind of stuff my fourth grade teacher said that all your mind is going to your brain and focus on media only. But the most important thing that teens that had been doing bad stuff gone fewer now days. Well there is still terrorist and gangsters but there is fewer bad stuff that happened in this world. That is a good thing and now teenagers should do few media.

    • Jason0421-YYCA
      7/14/2014 - 01:47 p.m.

      REBUTTAL:
      I think that drinking, smoking, and fighting is worse than playing games. Also playing games and texting effects only your mental mind, but in the other hand with drinking, smoking, and fighting, it effects both your body and your mental mind. So I think that you can't say that smoking, fighting, and drinking is better than playing video games and texting.

  • Jennifer0108
    9/03/2014 - 09:37 a.m.

    It's a good thing that all these bad topics are going down. Except for texting. Too many driving teens are texting behind the wheel and risking the lives of not just them, but also their passengers. Many teens need to understand that texting can wait.

  • RGage-Cas
    9/11/2014 - 08:09 p.m.

    I think this Is a tremendous news other then that many teenagers are still spending a huge amount on time on they're electronics but it's a good thing that the percentages are lower for drinking, smoking and fighting. Other then that it's not entirely a good thing unfortunately kids are still texting and driving at the same time spend more time watching television, Playing videogames and spending a great deal of time on the internet rather then going outside or going out with friends and getting to know people. 2.7 million is a very good number considering how many other teens are in the United States.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    9/15/2014 - 01:20 p.m.

    Hearing that the number of teens committing some type of risky behavior is going down is a good thing, but it also raises some red flags in my head. Since most risky behaviors happen at parties and such, and the rate of them is going down, and the rate of electronic usage is going up, then won't the obesity rate increase too? It seems to me that we're stuck between a rock and a hard place here.

  • cshields-Cla
    9/16/2014 - 12:08 p.m.

    can kids not just drive every week you hear about teens drinking and driving. now its texting and driving do all of these kids have a death wish.

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