A Valentine for teens and their improving health behaviors

valentines_day_games_0Let’s give a Valentine’s hug to the high schoolers of today for their improved health behaviors. Federal researchers, who survey 10,000 of them every other year, report that kids are, as one report describes it, are getting into a lot less trouble than ever before. The U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds, as one news report puts it:

Today’s teens are among the best-behaved generation of teens we know of: 15.7 percent of teens today smoke cigarettes. Twenty years ago, 30.5 percent of high school students did. Teenagers today are 31 percent less likely to binge drink than teenagers 20 years ago. In fact, they’re 18 percent less likely to have ever tried alcohol at all. In 1996, 5.9 percent of teen girls had babies. Now, that number is 2.7.

The report adds some key caveats:

There are some ways teen behavior has gotten worse. Obesity is higher now than it ever was, and high school students do eat fewer vegetables. There are new risks, like e-cigarettes, that the government is just beginning to try to measure.

Other, new research also provides insights about their online dating lives and practices, especially with apps and sites. The national survey data show that the “share of 18- to 24-year-olds who report having used online dating has nearly tripled in the last two years. Today 27 percent of these young adults report that they have done so, up from just 10 percent in early 2013.”

The overall view of dating by app or online site is growing more favorable. Those who date online or through apps view the practice more favorably, as do those with more education and affluence; they’re also more likely to know others who date via apps or online sites. Such dating practices are still viewed by slightly less than half of survey respondents as more “dangerous” than other means of meeting people.

As with all behaviors and practices that affect young people’s health and well-being, dating─online, by app, and in person─and sex are topics that grown-ups should take up, candidly and smartly, with them. Good communication is a solid way to keep good kids on the right path. The survey research also shows that many more adults may have experiences to draw on when talking about these topics:  The share of 55- to 64-year-olds who use online dating has doubled over the same time period (from 6 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2015)

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