TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on teen statistics that show where teens are improving and doing well.
WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:
I think historically we are used to viewing our teenagers as self-absorbed, self-involved, self-serving and not at all used to looking at successes. We are not used to celebrating how far our teens have come but rather the challenges they face. Statistics tell an extraordinarily optimistic story about what's happening in this country and teens in general so here is where we're going to start.
1. Decreasing teen pregnancy and teen births are among the most well-known and positive trends. In the 90's, teen pregnancies were roughly 62 per 1000. With teens now, teen pregnancy is roughly 25 -27 per 1000. Abortion rates are also down. What a change.
2. The good news. Smoking, which was typically part of the teenage experience is significantly way, way down. The last statistics we saw showed only 15% of high school students were smoking. Heavy smoking went from 18% to 4%, and illicit drug use in the past year, with the exclusion, I might add, of marijuana, went from 18% to 11%. The exception of course is that recently more teens have been smoking marijuana. Drug abuse is down. Recreational use of prescription drug pain killers continues a three year decline, prompting the overall two decade trend. The number of high school students using is 33% lower than a decade ago.
3. Drunk driving is far less common. Half as many high school students say they get behind the wheel drunk. Binge drinking is down compared to 31% last year.
4. High School dropout rates continue to fall. Kids are hanging in there until graduation. Attainment of higher education continues to rise. In 2013 only 7% of teens between the ages of 16 and 24 were out of school with no diploma compared to 12% in 1990. This is indeed good news.
5. The rate of teens in juvenile detention was reduced by 1/3 in the last 5 years. Meanwhile we see less physical fights being reported.
6. One of the biggest trends has been the change in volunteering. Volunteering in communities nationwide has improved 60 to 70% across ages. The requirement of community service hours may have encouraged this trend.
7. Teen mortality has been falling since the early 90's. Fatal car accidents, the most common form of accidents among teens are decreasing. Teen driving fatalities are down about 60% since 1975. The increased use of seatbelts and the decrease in drunk driving are trends likely related to this. Safer cars and graduated licensing programs have helped to decrease drunk driving. Distracted driving however is up, so parents focus on that.
8. Civic engagement on the part of teens is up roughly 50 to 75%. A different picture emerges when we talk about teens that vote, teens who are volunteering, the works and multiple events that teens have created across this country is phenomenal.
9. Graduation rates are at the highest level in three decades for most all ethnic groups. National high school graduation rates are at a four decade high.
10. Teens are adopting healthier life styles, eating more vegetables, getting more exercise and watching less television. This is encouraging. We know that junk food consumption remains high we still along with that we see more healthy options.
Finally, some of the greatest achievements throughout history in the fields of art, culture, science and technology have been made by teenagers. It may behoove parents to take note of teenagers who are constantly creating new and innovative ways of thinking and evaluating situations. Good examples include; Bill Gates who cofounded Microsoft as a young man, Babe Ruth who started playing baseball at 19, Bobby Fischer who was a World Champion Chess player at age 14. Let us not forget more recent successes like Malala, from Pakistan or Mo'ne Davis, who pitched a shutout game at last year's Little League World Series, there's also Flynn McGarry, a culinary whiz who started his own supper club in California at the age of 15. Small businesses and tech operations are sprouting up all over the country by our teens. All of these are wonderful examples of what our teens are capable of doing so parents listen up, this is our focus for the next year.