Are Today’s Teens Taking Less Risks?

Posted on: 06/13/16 5:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

teen-risks-sex-texting-marijuanaAre kids having more sex than years prior?

Are kids smoking more or less pot?

What about texting and driving?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) just released their brand new Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a study released every other year asking teenagers about risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, fighting at school, sexual activity… and even if they wear a seatbelt. The report breaks the numbers down by state, race, or grade, as well as providing national averages.

Here’s a few highlights:

  • 41% of high school students have had sexual intercourse (58% of seniors).
  • 30% of high school students are currently sexually active (46% of seniors)
  • 39% of high school students have ever used marijuana (50% of seniors)
  • 22% of high school students are current users of marijuana (28% of seniors)
  • 42% of high school students have texted while driving a car in the last 30 days (61% of seniors)

The report breaks down this data by state. So, curious as I was about the 4 states that allow recreational marijuana use, I immediately turned to the specific page (page 104) where it listed the states, and of the 37 states that provided specific states results… Washington and Oregon didn’t even participate, and Colorado didn’t provide specific numbers. Alaska was the only one of the four “blazing up” states included in the study.


So back to my opening questions… are kids doing more or less risky behaviors?

Texting while driving? The percentage hasn’t changed even one point in the last 5 years.

Marijuana use? Down 2% (statistically insignificant) since the previous report, and waaaaaaay better than the late 90’s when it was up 8% compared to now (again, but no Washington, Oregon or Colorado numbers). Most other studies show marijuana use remaining steady, despite the softening of perceived risks. The National Institute on Drug Abuse shows the numbers to be a little lower (e.g. they show 21% of seniors using marijuana in the last 30 days compared to the CDC who shows 28%).

Sexual activity? The numbers of high school kids who ever had sex (41%) is the lowest ever reported, down 5% from the previous report, and down 13% since 1991. The 5% drop is great (even though the survey is supposed to be accurate plus or minus 5%… it’s a significant drop). As for the drop prior to that… there’s more to that story. I researched that in detail 4 years ago when this report was released. (Is there a chance today’s parents are finally engaging in more than just one talk?)

So are young people actually having less sex? Well… define young people. Millennials (20-34 year-olds) are actually 10% more likely to “hook up” than past generations (see my break down of those numbers in this post).

I encourage you to take a quick peek at this CDC YRBS report sometime this week. I always like to browse through it, looking at marijuana use, tobacco use and sexual activity. The numbers are fascinating and provide a pretty accurate picture of how common some of these risky behaviors are.

The CDC also provides a handy tool called YOUTH ONLINE which allows you to pull up custom reports on any of this data from 1991 to 2015. In other words, you can choose to look at how many kids currently use Marijuana (that means they have used it in the last 30 days) from 1991 to now, by grade, by state (except the three states you want to see), or nationally.

Take a peek and tell me your thoughts.

Do any of these numbers surprise you?

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