Parents, schools, and communities are key sources of support in helping teens establish healthy behaviors now and as they transition into adulthood.
The high school years are a critical time of teen development as young people are becoming increasingly independent, trying out new behaviors and activities, and navigating influences from a variety of sources. Whether to use alcohol and drugs, become sexually active, or practice safe sex are only a few of the choices teens may be facing. Parents, schools, and communities are key sources of support in helping teens establish healthy behaviors now and as they transition into adulthood.
Health Risks for Teens
Although the adolescent and teen years are a relatively healthy stage of life, preventable causes of death, illness, and injury still occur during this period. Unintentional injury, suicide, and homicide are the three leading causes of death in young people aged 10-19. Health risk behaviors such as violence, substance use, and risky sexual behaviors continue to contribute to negative health outcomes in this age group. Results from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found:
Nearly half of teens are sexually active, but condom use has decreased from 63% in 2003 to 57% in 2015 putting teens at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.
Of those teens who are sexually active, 21% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse.
Only 10% of teens who reported being sexually active have been tested for HIV in the last 12 months.
The Role of Schools
Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people by helping them learn and establish lifelong healthy behaviors. Research has shown that school health programs can reduce health risk behaviors among young people and have a positive effect on academic performance.
The Role of Parents
Parents have a strong influence on their teens’ lives. Research shows that parent and family involvement can reduce risk behaviors and improve health outcomes across multiple areas, including the age teens start having sex, when and if they exhibit delinquent behavior, and whether or not they engage in alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
Parents can influence healthy behaviors in teens by:
Talking about healthy, respectful relationships.
Communicating expectations about relationships and sex.
Providing factual information about ways to prevent HIV, STDs, and pregnancy.
Focusing on the benefits of protecting oneself from HIV, STDs, and pregnancy.
Providing information about how teens can speak with a health care provider and receive sexual health services.
Content source: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health