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Teen Health Troubles
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If you have a teenager in your life and are concerned about his or her health, there’s good news and there’s bad news. Every two years The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts a survey on teen health. This year’s findings are a mix of good news and bad.

The good news is that today’s teens have cut back on smoking, drugs, sex, and getting into fights at school. They’re also getting better at wearing seatbelts and helmets. These encouraging improvements show that the safety messages we’re teaching them at home and at school are getting through.

The bad news is that more teens are overweight than ever before, and that texting while driving has become a very serious hazard.

Over 16 percent of the students in the CDC survey were overweight, and 14 percent were actually obese. Several factors contribute to this trend. Although teens should aim at getting three servings a day of both fruits and vegetables, only 15 percent are doing so.

A second contributing factor is lack of sleep. Most teens need nine hours of sleep, but only 31 percent of those surveyed are getting eight hours or more.

Teen Obesity

Still another contributing factor to teen obesity is the lack of exercise. Only 47 percent said that in the past week, they had exercised to the point of getting a little winded. What’s causing this unhealthy trend? During the week, nearly one-third watch three or more hours of TV a day, and over 41 percent are playing video games or are on their computers recreationally more than three hours a day. CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden says, “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in screen time. It’s remarkable.”1

Even more troubling than the obesity epidemic is a risk that many teens don’t seem to take seriously: texting and emailing while driving. Over 40 percent of teenagers who drove on a regular basis admitted to either texting or emailing while driving. The result? Nationwide it’s estimated that 3,000 teens die and another 300,000 are injured annually due to texting while driving.2 This is a serious issue that needs to be discussed in each family.

How can we help reduce these teen health risks? By setting a good example. If our teens see us frequently munching on junk food, staying up late watching TV, or surfing the internet for endless hours rather than getting adequate exercise, they won’t have much motivation to do anything better themselves.

And while we adults can’t always be with them in the car to make sure they don’t text and drive, we can again, set a good example. The director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health says, “Teenagers are particularly susceptible to distraction. Parents need to model good behavior.”

Rule of thumb: If it’s not healthy or safe for us, it’s not healthy or safe for them. And we need to lead the way by example.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/teen-smoking-sex-hit-new-lows-texting-fat-are-new-n129541
2 http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/study-texting-while-driving-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-teen-drivers-1.5226036

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