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During the teen years, parents need to be pay extra attention to their kids’ activities. If you think your teen may be using drugs or alcohol, or participating in dangerous challenges, talk with them. Tell them what you’ve observed, ask questions, and listen.
Most importantly, educate yourself to understand the pressures teens face today. By understanding the landscape, you can help your child make smarter decisions and healthier choices. Here’s an overview of some to help you get started.
Peer pressure to try cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs is nothing new. Still, it’s worrisome. Most adolescents who abuse drugs or alcohol start using those substances due to peer pressure. Nearly 90 percent of cigarette smokers say they first tried smoking by 18. The latest available stats for underage drinking reveal that 7.4 million young people 12 to 20 years old report drinking alcohol in the past. This number includes 4.5 million who are binge drinkers, and 932,000 who say they are heavy drinkers.
Through social media, dangerous trends can spread quickly. Teens may view and post videos of harmful physical “challenges” online. Social media can also lead to peer pressure to participate in cyberbullying and online shaming if someone doesn’t complete a dare.
Peer Challenges Not only do these challenges encourage risky behavior, they may lead to other more dangerous behaviors like frequent sexual activity and substance use. Here are four popular games and challenges you need to know about:
Need someone who isn’t in your family to discuss difficult topics with your teen? Schedule an annual wellness visit with your child’s pediatrician. This is an opportunity for your teen’s doctor to discuss risky behaviors and the consequences of engaging in harmful activities.
Have you successfully navigated a tough conversation with your teen? Help your fellow parents by posting ice breakers in the comments!
Originally published 1/18/2016; Revised 2021
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