Adolescence is when teenagers discover their passions, develop lifelong friendships, and push boundaries.
But this newfound sense of freedom sometimes leads to risky teenage behaviours. This can cause significant stress for parents.
The ability to stay grounded and understand the consequences of risky behaviour is the key to your teen making the right choices.
What might seem fun in the moment could end badly.
So let’s take a closer look at 8 common teenage risky behaviours and what you, as a parent, can do.
(If your teen lacks motivation, make sure to download the free e-book below.)
1. Risky sexual behaviour
Being curious about sex is a natural part of growing up.
As a Christian, I believe in abstinence until marriage. But for others who aren’t religious, the main consideration might be practising safe sex.
Unsafe sex can affect your teen’s health and future because of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy, among other things.
The CDC found that almost half of the 26 million new cases of STDs in the US were among those aged 15-24. This underscores the dangers of risky sexual behaviour.
STDs can have lifelong effects. As you’re already aware of, the main ways to prevent getting an STD are abstinence and using protection.
Parenting teens is tough, but educating them on the dangers of unprotected sex is essential. More than that, have open and honest conversations with your teens about their views toward sex, pornography, unplanned pregnancies, and STDs.
Only when you understand their perspective can you have meaningful conversations with them about making the right choices when it comes to sex.
2. Behaviour that leads to unintentional injuries
Many teenagers seek thrills and adventures. They might decide to bike through the forest or try dangerous skateboarding tricks.
These kinds of activities can lead to unintentional injuries.
According to GOV.UK, unintentional injuries are a leading cause of preventable death and severe disability among young people.
Teenagers may not take safety precautions seriously. For example, they might not wear a helmet or protective gear when riding a bike or skateboarding.
Risky behaviour on the roads, such as not wearing seat belts, is another leading cause of unintentional injury. Public Health England has created detailed guidelines to reduce these types of injuries on the roads.
Talk to your teens about the importance of wearing protective gear and driving safely. Find out how your teens assess risk and what factors influence their decision-making process.
3. Vaping and tobacco use
Peer pressure and a desire to “fit in” are common themes during adolescence.
Research shows that nicotine use during adolescence can adversely affect the brain. The areas of the brain most affected are responsible for attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
Teenagers who rebelled against authority and smoked used to be seen as cool. But many teenagers today are put off by the ill effects of smoking, such as discoloured teeth, bad breath, respiratory issues, and cancers of the mouth and lungs.
Today, vaping is the “cool” thing. Statistics show that vaping is becoming more common, with 26.5% of high schoolers using disposable e-cigarettes, compared to only 2.4% a few years ago.
There’s no question that nicotine – no matter what form it takes – is addictive.
So make sure your teens know the risks of vaping. Once again, it’s always a good idea to have open discussions with your teens about vaping and smoking so that you know what their views are on the topic.
4. Poor eating habits
You may have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. There’s truth to this statement.
As your teens begin to make their own food choices, their standards may start to slip. This is when unhealthy dietary habits can begin to develop.
Teenagers may opt for sugary drinks or unhealthy snacks that taste good but have little nutritional value.
A poor diet will almost definitely lead to serious consequences later in life. Various health issues, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, can result from bad eating habits.
Skipping meals and drinking too many energy drinks are other dietary choices that can impact your teen’s health.
At the same time, teenagers often feel the pressure to have a “perfect” body. This pressure can cause them to restrict their calorie intake excessively. This can lead to eating disorders and vitamin deficiencies.
Keep the lines of communication with your teens open, so you’ll be able to support and guide them to make good choices when it comes to their dietary habits.
5. Alcohol and drug use
The teenage years are a time of self-discovery and – at times – rebellion.
Alcohol and drug use are common ways for teens to rebel against authority and also feel grown up.
But one drink can quickly lead to another, and before your teens know it, they’ve had too much.
With alcohol and drugs, it doesn’t take much to put your teen at severe risk.
Alcohol is often the gateway to other substances such as cocaine, inhalants, marijuana, methamphetamines, steroids, and prescription drugs.
When teenagers are exposed to such substances, they become vulnerable to several dangers. These dangers include accidental overdose, toxic drugs, and addiction.
Teens might experiment with alcohol and drugs for many reasons. They might feel curious, or they might want to fit in.
But many teens never fully consider the associated dangers. What may seem like a bit of weekend fun can lead to bad grades, health problems, or even a lifetime of addiction.
Not surprisingly, researchers have found that the earlier people begin to abuse drugs, the greater their chances of developing a serious addiction.
Maintaining a good relationship with your teens and listening to their points of view is the key to motivating your teens to make good decisions when it comes to alcohol and drug use.
6. Social media
The number of people who use social media regularly, and the amount of time spent online, is continually increasing.
Most teens use social media to communicate with their friends and meet new people. Some teens spend hours mindlessly scrolling through social media, to the point where it takes over their lives.
Internet addiction is a real threat to teenagers, so it’s something that parents need to look out for.
What’s more, the Internet is an especially dangerous place for vulnerable people. Cyberbullying is a common occurrence among teenagers. People hiding behind their screens aren’t afraid of leaving nasty comments or sending mean direct messages.
These comments and direct messages can damage your teen’s self-esteem.
So your teenagers need to learn to manage their social media usage. You can lead by example in this area by demonstrating to your teenagers what you’re doing to manage your own screen time.
Technology enables us to communicate in a multitude of ways. But technology also makes it easy to send sexually explicit images.
Teens are curious and are more likely to experiment with sexting if their friends are doing it too.
To some people, sexting might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious ramifications. Numerous studies show that sexting is associated with risky behaviours such as smoking and drug use.
Furthermore, sexting is associated with having multiple sexual partners, anxiety, and depression.
The images sent can easily be forwarded to unintended recipients. Sexting can lead to bullying, objectification, and extortion, just to name a few negative consequences. So sexting is something that teenagers should never engage in.
Have casual conversations with your teens to see what their views are toward sexting, so you’ll know how to approach the topic with them going forward.
Self-harm is often a coping mechanism for teenagers who are experiencing emotional pain.
Self-harm results in teens feeling temporarily relieved, before shame and guilt take over. In many cases, those who harm themselves hide their wounds from others.
Insufficient coping mechanisms and communication skills can lead to self-harm. Your teenager may be experiencing an internal struggle and may not have the tools to deal with it on his or her own.
Therapy and coaching can help to identify the underlying cause, and put your teen on the road to recovery.
Maintain a positive relationship with your teens to ensure they know they can come to you if they need help or support.
The journey through the teenage years is full of ups and downs.
Risky behaviours can be a normal part of growing up. But understanding the consequences of these behaviours and learning how to say no to them is essential.
Focus on building a strong relationship with your teens, and listen to their points of view without casting judgment. Over time, this will result in you being in a better position to influence them.
After all, lectures and nagging don’t work with teens. So your best bet is to keep the lines of communication wide open, because this will allow you to guide your teens toward making wise decisions.
All the best on this challenging but exciting journey with your teenagers!
(Don’t forget to download your free e-book below. It contains 16 proven tips that you can apply right away to help your teens become more motivated!)