Top 10 Things Teens Struggle With (And How Parents Can Help)

Today's teens have a whole different set of issues to worry about

Teenage boy (16-17) lying on grass, elevated view
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Advances in technology mean today's teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever seen. While some issues aren't exactly new, electronic media has made those issues different for young people. Here are the top 10 things today's teens struggle with:  

1. Depression

A whopping 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement.

Untreated depression can cause a variety of educational and social problems. This requires the help of a mental health professional, so if your teen suddenly becomes withdrawn, has changes in his sleep patterns, or starts to perform badly in school, take these signs of depression seriously. 

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. Bullying can lead to a variety of physical injuries and mental health problems. Unfortunately, the rise of social media use by teens has made bullying much more public and more pervasive. Know your teen's social media accounts, and be sure to talk to them about the dangers. 

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. 

Talk to your teens about sex even if you don't think they are sexually active. Better to prepare them and make sure they get their questions answered than hope they know what they're doing.

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.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of drugs. And don't forget to mention the dangers of prescription drugs. Many teens don't recognize the dangers of taking a friend's prescription or popping a few pills that aren't prescribed to them.

5. Alcohol Use

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports alcohol use has dropped among teens. In 2012, 14.5% 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 (5 or more drinks in a row) in the past two weeks.

Hold regular conversations about the risks of underage drinking. Educating your teen about the dangers, and expressing your disapproval of underage drinking, will go a long way to reducing your teen's risk.

6. Obesity

The 2011 National Survey of 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.

Talk to your pediatrician about healthy eating habits and what weight and body mass are appropriate for your teen's height and age. 

7. Academic Problems

Although the high school dropout rate is decreasing, 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. 

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

8. Peer Pressure

While peer pressure definitely isn't a new issue, electronic media makes it even harder for teens to resist. Sexting, for example, is a major cause for concern as many teens don't understand the lifelong consequences sharing 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, however. Sometimes, "really good kids" make poor choices but are too afraid to seek help. Encourage your teen to talk you when 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.

Know what your teen is doing online. Educate yourself about the latest apps, websites, and social media pages teens are using. Even 'harmless' selfies can be problematic, so it's important to stay on top of what your teen is doing so you can provide information that will keep your teen safe. 

10. On-Screen Violence

It's not just TV or movies that allow teens access to violence. Most teens play video games and violent games often portray gory scenes and disturbing acts of aggression. A multitude of studies have linked watching violence to a lack of empathy.

Monitor to your teen's screen time and electronic activities. Talk to your teen about the dangers of being exposed to violent images and monitor your teen's mental health.

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