Teens will often begin experimenting with risky behaviors due to peer pressure. Worries about peer acceptance, college, grades or just growing up in general can lead to confusion, low self-esteem and risk taking. In a best case scenario, your teens will open and up and tell you what they did once they realize they've made a mistake. On the other hand, they may keep it a secret, and you'll have to watch for warning signs. Here are some of the top risky teen behaviors you should know about.
1. Alcohol and Marijuana
Alcohol and marijuana abuse are always at the top of the list when experts survey teens on risk behaviors. More than 70 percent of teens will try alcohol at least once before they're out of high school, and more than a third will try marijuana (according to the Centers for Disease Control). Researchers have consistently found that parents talking to their children about drugs and alcohol is the best deterrent.
2. Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among teens over the past decade. About 1 in 4 surveyed teens have admitted to trying a drug that was not prescribed to them. The figures correspond to the rising numbers of teens that are diagnosed with ADHD. Adderall is one of the most common ADHD drugs that teens are abusing in America, followed by painkillers such as Oxycontin. If you find unidentified pills in your teen's pocket, check out Pillbox. It's a site from the National Institutes of Health that can help identify an unknown pill. That way you can talk to your teen if it's something dangerous, or relax if it's something like an unlabeled aspirin.
Sexting, or having sexual chats online, is another risk behavior that's on the rise among teenagers. The obvious danger is that your teen might be chatting with a dangerous person who is using a false online identity. If a teen who is under 18 sends a nude picture to someone, the act is legally defined as child pornography--even if the recipient is another teen and both parties are willing. Talk to you teen about limits when it comes to online activity. If they become evasive or you think they're trying to hide something, you may need to crack down on their Internet usage.
4. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are more common in teenage girls. Warning signs to watch for include low self esteem, rapid weight loss, preoccupation with calorie counting and foods, and complaining that they are overweight (when they're clearly not). If you suspect that your teen has an eating disorder, it's time to seek professional help from a counselor.
5. Risky Behavior behind the Wheel
The Centers for Disease Control states that teens tend to engage in risky behaviors while in the car with other teens. About 10 percent say they've driven a car after having a drink, and almost 30 percent admit to getting in a car with another teen driver who had been drinking. Another 10 percent say they never wear a seat belt. Again, talking to your teen about these behaviors and keeping an open line of communication is the best defense.