Are teens really out of control?

Despite what the media might tell us, it appears that our teens may not be as out-of-control as some of us believe – or at least not in the ways we think they are.

Try Googling “teens out of control.” At the time of writing that search query returned 58,200,000 results (in 0.29 seconds if you’re interested).

Fifty-eight MILLION.

Google would have us believe we are in the middle of a Gen Z Apocalypse while media savvy experts drum up faux-outrage and hysteria to grab five minutes with Kochie or Karl for parents to watch before the school run, or to fill 5 minutes on “current affairs” programs in the evening.

But what’s really happening with regard to alcohol and drug use makes for interesting reading.

For example, it appears that teenage behaviours and attitudes around the use of cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs are less risky than they were a decade ago.

The National Drugs Strategy Household Survey found that in 2013, compared to 2010:

* Fewer 12–17 year olds are drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol increased significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 64% to 72%).

* Younger people are delaying the take up of smoking—the age at which 14–24-year-olds smoked their first full cigarette increased from 14.2 in 1995 to 15.9 years in 2013.

* Among younger people aged 14–24 years, the age of initiation into illicit drug use increased from 16.0 years in 2010 to 16.3 years in 2013. More specifically: in 2013 significantly older ages of first use were reported for both cannabis and meth/amphetamines.

Having said that, research does show that we still have kids who are involved in risky levels of drinking, the number of which has stayed fairly constant over the past decade.

So what do we do with this information?

I like how Paul Dillon (seriously, check out his blog) uses the statistics to show teens that the majority of them aren’t actually drinking or smoking. I also like how he challenges some of the underlying factors, particularly parental attitudes to drinking and the strategy of giving their kids 3 or 4 drinks so “at least they know what they’re drinking.”

Research shows that more kids get their alcohol from parents than they do their friends, so perhaps it’s not who their kids hang around with that parents should worry about?

Author: Dan Haesler is a teacher, consultant and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. His website is: http://danhaesler.com/ and he tweets at @danhaesler