Teens are not what they used to be twenty years ago and there are major changes in their risky behavior, according to a new study. Surprisingly, they don’t smoke, don’t fight and don’t drink as much as teens once did, but they are spending more time at their computers, tablets and video games. In fact, teen smoking hits all-time low, at least for American teenagers.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of the National Youth Risk Behavior survey last week, revealing good news. Only 15.7 percent of all 13,000 teenagers taking part in the survey say they smoke, which is extremely low compared to the initial rates of 27.5 percent in 1991 and 1997’s 36.4 percent. According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, the government goal of reducing teen smoking nationally to less than 16 percent has been met, but there is also a rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, smoking pens and electronic hookahs. Overall, young people are more health-conscious than they were 20 years ago.
But the study reveals more positive news – fewer teens are drinking alcohol today and soda consumption, associated with obesity and diabetes is down, too. This is certainly a positive shift in youngsters’ behavior and researchers are hoping the trend will remain. Teens also spend fewer hours in front of the TV, but they compensate for screen time with more time at their computers, tablets and smart phones. An alarming 41 percent of teen drivers admit they text messages and send e-mails while driving. Even more concerning is the finding that the biggest killer of kids and teens are road accidents. Around 23 percent of deaths in youngsters aged 10 to 24, have been caused by vehicle accidents.
Although today’s young people are drinking and smoking less, their overall health is harmed by the increased media usage. 41 percent of the teens say they spend three or more hours on a average school day playing video or computer games, or using other devices (smartphones, laptops, and so on) for recreation. Texting and social media make youngsters communicate in a virtual world, rather than developing relationships in real life. This can damage their development and lead to a number of behavioral and emotional issues. Furthermore, when you are in Facebook or Twitter 24/7, you have no time for physical activity, school work, and communicating with your family.
The study included only teenagers in the US, but the results can be indicative of what’s happening around the world. The smartphone use is constantly increasing across the globe and although it seems to be replacing smoking, it isn’t less concerning.