Parents Are Leaders In Public Health
Parents often share common concerns across the social spectrum. For decades, parents worried about preventing their children from picking up the habit of smoking as they grew up and entered high-school. Statistics showed most smokers began in their high-school years so parents were thrust onto the frontline of preventing the deadly addiction as one of the final lessons before children turned 18 and ventured out into the world. Any parent or concerned adult who took on this responsibility of guiding public health can look at statistics now and feel a sense of accomplishment. Parents were a part of a broad social push to curb smoking and they won.
New Health Crisis For High-School Students and Parents
Today, parents are united behind another deadly issue which rapidly became a new common concern. Texting while driving is now a major public health concern. Health risks from this new concern can not only kill or severely injure teenagers much faster than a deadly smoking habit, it can destroy the lives of strangers hit by distracted teens behind the wheel. In this sense, the public health threat posed by high-school students texting while driving becomes a threat to everyone, while smoking is typically only a threat to the smoker.
A Closer Look At The Changing Landscape Student Behavior
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the rise in numbers of teens driving and texting. The article presents new data collected specifically to analyze the extent of this public health threat and results are quite shocking. Studying 6 major concerns for parents raising high-school aged teens, the data shows 5 of 6 most common concerns for vigilant parents on guard against health dangers synonymous with high-school years years have become significantly less of a problem.
Alcohol use, which spiked and remained at a rate of 50 percent among teenagers, dropped by 15 percent. The rate of sexual intercourse among teens dropped only slightly, but still it fell below 50 percent where it had hovered along with alcohol use. Marijuana had a similar slight decline of a few percentage points as the numbers of students reporting use fell from around 27 percent to 23 percent of students overall. Never as popular among high-students as alcohol, marijuana has always been less of a threat among teen health risks. Physical fights have seen a dramatic drop in numbers which should thrill concerned parents. FIghts were once a danger for as many as nearly 40 percent of high-school students. Today, the number of high-school students reporting fights as a personal danger has dropped to 24 percent.
Again, the most significant change among high-school students is the plunging percentage of those who report smoking. This is a major achievement proving a collective social push to alter a deadly but popular habit can win. Why was this shift so dramatic? The movement to prevent smoking among teens has enjoyed a great deal of momentum. Spearheaded by engaged families, reinforced by education, ensured by institutional reforms such as tougher laws regulating the sale as well as price of tobacco, and reaffirmed by growing negative perceptions of smokers in daily life, cigarettes have little power over this strong effort.
Where did driving while texting rank as a health issue for high-school students? It has made its debut on this list assessing dangers at 42 percent. 42 percent of high-school students report they text and email while driving. Now, only sexual intercourse ranks as a higher threat by 6 percentage points. These recent numbers are an alarm bell. These numbers are the reason it is time for parents to take up the challenge of setting teens on a safer path.
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