If you think back to your own adolescence, it’s likely that you took part in some activities that your parents didn’t approve of. A teen’s developmental stage makes it necessary for them to push boundaries and try things that you don’t like as part of proving themselves as being independent of mom and dad. In addition, adolescents don’t have the same type of impulse control and brain development that adults have. Many times these behaviors are simply annoying and include things like eye-rolling, curse words, and breaking minor rules such as coming in late or using their phones during the wee hours of the night. However, some types of misbehavior are risky and downright dangerous. Here are six types of teen risky behavior that teenagers might take part in, along with some suggestions on what to do if your teen is involved in any of these dangerous activities.
1. Drug and Alcohol Use
Many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. In some instances, this might entail trying a beer or smoking a marijuana joint at a party once or twice, then leaving it alone. Other times, substance use can turn into a frequent activity and eventually into teen substance abuse or addiction.
As a parent, it’s important to set boundaries when it comes to this type of teen risky behavior. Yes, your teen might cross those boundaries, but if there are none in place, he or she might assume that you don’t care about drug use and abuse. Be aware of the signs of alcohol or drug abuse, and don’t be afraid to seek help for your teen if you suspect that he or she is abusing substances. Talk to your teen about the dangers of drugs; even if you think they’re not listening, it’s important that they have the information.
2. Smoking and Tobacco Use
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are generally easy for teens to get hold of, and smoking is fairly common among adolescents. As you probably know, nicotine is very addictive; starting to smoke now can set up a teen for years or even decades of smoking in the future. Also, just about everyone knows the risks of smoking, which include a higher incidence of lung cancer, other types of cancers, heart disease, and more.
Let your teen know where you stand on smoking. If you smoke, do your best to quit. Also, forbid smoking in the house or on your property; having a convenient place to smoke can encourage your teen to smoke more frequently, perhaps raising the chances of becoming addicted.
3. Risky Sexual Behavior
Approximately half of teens begin having sex before their high school graduation. It’s important to let your teen know your values when it comes to teen sex. Some families do not condone any sexual activities in young people, while others stress safety when it comes to teenage sex. Even if you are against your teen having sex, be sure that he or she is able to access condoms and other types of birth control. One major danger during the teen years is that many teens might not plan on having sex, so when the opportunity presents itself, there is no protection available. Try to have an open conversation with your teen so that he or she will feel comfortable approaching you about sex.
If your teen identifies as LGBTQ, it’s still important to have an open dialogue; gay boys are at risk of acquiring sexually transmissible infections, and lesbian girls can and do get pregnant if they do decide to have sex with a boy. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your child is exempt and not having sex because if you are wrong, the consequences of this teen risky behavior can be severe.
Some teens, particularly boys, have trouble controlling their anger. This can lead to physical fights between friends or enemies. In addition to hormonal fluctuations, teens of both sexes suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can experience anger and aggression. If your teen is in more than one fight, it’s important to seek help for this teen risky behavior. He or she might need anger management counseling or an evaluation to determine whether there is a physical or mental health condition causing the aggression.
Many teens don’t like school and once they are old enough to get around without a parent, they might decide to skip school. While occasional skipping can be a normal way that teens push boundaries, it is important that you, as your teen’s parent, know where they are and that they are not doing anything unsafe or illegal. Skipping more than once or twice per year can put your teen’s grades at risk and increase the chances that they’ll get into additional trouble. In some places, parents can be held responsible for their teenagers who do not go to school.
Talk to your teen about the importance of going to school each day unless they are sick. Make your teen aware that truancy is against the law, and insist that your teen tells you where he or she is. Also, don’t shield your teen from the consequences of skipping school; don’t write notes excusing them for unauthorized days off. If a test is missed or a grade falls, don’t make it your problem to solve.
6. Illegal Activities
Some teens cross legal boundaries, either because they come up with the idea on their own or because they are urged to do so by their friends. Some of these activities are more dangerous than others. A teen who is racing in the car can have life-altering or even life-ending consequences. A teen who is caught vandalizing a building or shoplifting can end up with a criminal record. Talk frankly to your teen about these types of teen risky behavior. Don’t be afraid to impose consequences for a teenager who is participating in illegal and dangerous activities.
Teenagers can keep parents on their toes by engaging in teen risky behavior. If it seems as though your teen is very impulsive or isn’t able to control his or her behavior, be sure to seek help. Start with your family doctor and ask for an evaluation to a mental health professional if it’s warranted.