Keeping Your Teens Safe

Teens get easily get into trouble. Whether it’s intentional or not, teens can find themselves in dangerous situations. This can happen at a party where there might be drugs and alcohol, behind the wheel, surfing the internet, or among bullies at school. The situations in which your teen might experience danger are all around them. As parents, it’s important to talk to your teens about safety and well being.


For instance, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, administered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), monitors six priority health-risk behaviors that play a role in the causes of death, disability, and social problems among teens and adults. These behaviors often begin in childhood or early adolescence and are listed below:


Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence – These behaviors can include riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet, not wearing a seatbelt when riding as a passenger in a car, riding in cars with drivers who had been drinking, and texting or emailing someone while driving a vehicle. Others include carrying a weapon, carrying a gun specifically versus other weapons, being in a physical fight, experiencing being hit, slapped, or physically hurt intentionally by a boyfriend or girlfriend (dating violence), avoiding school because of its lack of safety, experiencing bullying, or considering and/or attempting suicide.


Sexual behaviors that lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases – Behaviors that contribute to unintentional pregnancies and diseases, such as having intercourse before the age of 13, having multiple partners, not using protection during intercourse, not being tested for HIV, drinking alcohol or using drugs during or before intercourse.


Alcohol or drug use – Risky behaviors regarding alcohol or drug use include having at least one drink during their lifetime, currently drinking on a regular basis, having five or more drinks in a row (binge drinking experiences), trying other drugs such as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, steroids, or prescription drugs.


Tobacco use – Behaviors that lead to tobacco use include trying cigarette smoking, smoking an entire cigarette before the age of 13, smoking a cigarette at least once in a week, and using various forms of smokeless tobacco.


Unhealthy dietary behaviors – Risky behavior that leads to unhealthy diets include not eating the right amounts of fruit or drinking fruit juices, not eating any vegetables, not drinking milk, drinking sugar based drinks such as sodas, not eating breakfast.


Inadequate physical activity – Risky behavior that leads to lack of physical health is not getting enough exercise, which includes the following risk factors: not doing any cardio activity in the last week, not attending Physical Education classes, playing video games or spending time on the computer for 3 or more hours per day, watching television for 3 or more hours per day.


Knowing what these behaviors are can help parents identify how and when to keep their teens safe. A primary way to teach your adolescents about safety is to encourage them to aim for safety themselves. Rather than trying to keep them away from various activities, you can teach teens what to look for in order to stay safe on their own. And just in case, you might create a list of phone numbers for your teen to call when in a dangerous situation.


Teaching teens about safety can ensure their well being. With safety on their mind, teens can avoid psychological, emotional, and physical harm.