Top 10 Social Issues Teens Struggle With Today

Technology has changed or amplified the struggles young people face.

Friends making selfie outside school
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Advances in technology mean today's teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever seen. While some issues are not exactly new, electronic media has changed or amplified some of the struggles young people face.

In fact, the average teen spends over nine hours each day using their electronic devices. Their social media habits and media consumption are changing the way young people communicate, learn, sleep, and exercise.

Here are the top 10 things today's teens struggle with:

1. Depression

An estimated 3 million adolescents in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 12.5 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 12 and 17.

Depressive disorders are treatable but it's important to seek professional help. if your teen seems withdrawn, experiences a change in his sleep patterns, or starts to perform badly in school, schedule an appointment with your teen's physician or contact a mental health professional.

2. Bullying

According to research conducted by Family First Aid, 30 percent of teens in the U.S. have been involved in bullying—either as a victim or as the bully. The rise of social media use by teens has made bullying much more public and more pervasive.

Talk to your teen about bullying regularly. Discuss what she can do when she witnesses bullying and talk about options if she becomes a target.

3. Sexual Activity

In a 2013 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 percent of high school students reported being sexually active, and 41 percent said they had not used a condom during their last sexual encounter. Of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases each year, more than half were among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Surveys also show most parents don't believe their children are sexually active. Talk to your teen about sex, even if you don't think your child is sexually active.  

4. Drug Use

Marijuana use has been on the rise among adolescents over the past few years according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2012, 17 percent of tenth graders and 23 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the past month. Recognize the warning signs of drug use.

Hold regular conversations about the dangers of drugs. And don't forget to mention the dangers of prescription drugs. Many teens do not recognize the dangers of taking a friend's prescription or popping a few pills that are not prescribed to them.

5. Alcohol Use

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports alcohol use has dropped among teens. In 2012, 14.5 percent of 10th graders and 28.1 percent of 12th graders reported getting drunk in the past month. The same research study found that 23.7 percent of high school seniors reported binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row) in the past two weeks.

Have regular conversations about the risks of underage drinking. Educate your teen about the dangers. Express your disapproval of underage drinking and why it can be dangerous for teenagers.

It can go a long way to reducing your teen's risk.

6. Obesity

The 2011 National Survey on Children’s Health reports that 31.3 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 10 and 17 were overweight or obese. Obese children are at a much greater risk of lifelong health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.

Surveys show parents are bad at recognizing when their kids are overweight. They tend to underestimate their child's size and the risks associated with being overweight. Talk to your child's pediatrician about the weight and body mass are appropriate for your teen's height and age and inquire about the steps you can take to ensure your teen is healthy.

7. Academic Problems

Although the high school dropout rate is decreasing on a national level, 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A high school dropout is likely to earn $200,000 less over his lifetime when compared to a high school graduate.

It's no longer just the "troubled teens" who are dropping out of school. Some teens feel so much pressure to get into a good college that they're burning themselves out before they graduate from high school.

Stay involved in your teen's education. Provide support and guidance and be ready to assist your teen if he encounters problems.

8. Peer Pressure

While peer pressure isn't a new issue, social media brings it to a whole new level. Sexting, for example, is a major cause for concern as many teens do not understand the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives. 

Give your teen skills to make healthy choices and to resist peer pressure. Talk to your teen about what to do if she makes a mistake. Sometimes, kids can make poor choices and may be too afraid to seek help. Encourage your teen to talk you when he or she makes a mistake.

9. Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great ways for teens to connect with one another. But, social media can be problematic for several reasons.

Unhealthy messages often go viral on social media and teens frequently compare themselves to one another. And, it only takes one post to ruin your teen's online reputation—even harmless selfies can be problematic

Know what your teen is doing online. Educate yourself about the latest apps, websites, and social media pages teens are using and take steps to keep your teen safe. 

10. On-Screen Violence

It is not just TV or movies that allow teens access to violence—violent video games portray gory scenes and disturbing acts of aggression. Over the past couple of decades, a multitude of studies linked watching violence to a lack of empathy. 

Pay attention to your teen's media use. Talk to your teen about the dangers of being exposed to violent images and monitor your teen's mental state.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual Risk Behaviors

Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health. National Survey for Children's Health

Family First Aid. School Bullying Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics. High School Dropouts.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Marijuana