Teens In The News


Teen Drug Use Has Reached Surprising Lows

Bethany Radcliff

We spend a lot of time talking about disturbing new teen drug trends, but finally, there's some good news! According to recently released federal survey data, teen drug use is, for the most part, tracking lower than it's been in 25 years.

The Monitoring the Future report looked at the illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use of 50,000 teenagers in grades 8 through 12. They found that 5 percent of eighth graders, 10 percent of high school sophomores, and 14 percent of seniors had tried illicit drugs in the previous 12 months. In 1991, these percentages were 13 percent, 18 percent and 21 percent across the same grade levels.

Similarly, the number of teens who had participated in binge drinking in the previous two weeks dropped, with just 3 percent of eighth graders to 16 percent of twelfth graders engaging in the activity. Binge drinking has been declining steadily in recent years.

When it comes to smoking cigarettes, twelfth grade participation has fallen from 63 percent to 28 percent in the past 25 years, and vaping has declined for the first year since it became part of the survey in 2011. Even heroin usage among teens has declined, from 1.5 percent in 2000 to 0.3 percent among twelfth graders in 2016. (These results are positive, but by no means undermine the dangerous heroin epidemic that we covered earlier this year.)

Unfortunately, not all of the news is positive, as marijuana is on the rise among older high school students. For seniors, the numbers have held at a steady rate since 2011--36 percent reported using pot this year. Though that percentage seems high, it's not as alarming as it sounds. With all the grades combined, marijuana usage has actually declined over the past few years. And with changes in legalization among states, the overall decline is a surprise that's leaving experts a bit dumbfounded--suggesting that this generation is safer and more careful than previous generations when it comes to consuming drugs.

Still, marijuana usage often gets teens comfortable with saying yes to other drugs, so it's all the more important to make sure your teens understand the dangers that all drugs--including marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes--pose to their overall health and quality of life. These results are positive overall, but they don't erase the problems and dangers that remain. After all, these percentages are merely a number--no matter how large or small, they represent actual issues that affect teens.

For more information on teaching drug awareness in the classroom, be sure to check out this Teaching Tough Topics guide. Don't forget to share our story, "Heroin Took Over Our Town" with teens, and encourage them to get involved in the fight against drug abuse by spearheading interactive campaigns like this one from DoSomething.org.


12/16/16: Articles You Need To Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!


1. Teenagers want their parents to be like potted plants

We already know that parents are important to teen development, but sometimes all it takes is sitting in the same room with them, according to a new study. Even if you're just folding laundry or reading a book, that time can be beneficial. In fact, many teens say they wish their parents were around more often.


2.  Teen drug use is down, new survey says

According to a new federal survey, teen drug use has reached lows that haven't been seen since the 1990s. The survey looked at 50,000 teens and found that illicit drug use (other than marijuana) was lower than it has been since 1991. Alcohol use is down too, from 67 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2016. And the same goes for cigarette usage, which has more than halved from 63 percent of teens having tried them in 1991 to 28 percent in 2016. For more on these findings, check out our Ideabook post on the same findings


3. Texas is starting what may be the largest study yet on high school athletes and brain injuries

Concussions and other serious brain injuries are one of the most risky aspects of high school sports. To try and rectify these issues, Texas will be tracking two dozen high school sports to see if improvements in rules or protective athletic wear is the solution to preventing deadly brain injuries. 





12/9/16: 3 Articles You Need To Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!


1. Social media sites are places where teens feel safe

Apps and sites like Instagram, YouNow, and WattPad, aren't just entertainment and time-wasters for teens. These apps provide a place for connection and solace--a place where Gen Z teens can be open about their feelings and struggles. For example, Justin uses YouNow to document his life as a trans teen, Ajala uses the Instagram hashtag #PerfectlyMe to support body positivity, and Rachel's YouTube cooking channel has boosted her self-confidence. 
2. Across America, math skills are lagging far behind those of other countries

When it comes to math, American high schools are "losing ground," compared to the rest of the world, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. says. More than half a million 15-year-old students from over 70 nations took part in the International Student Assessment, a test on an 1,000-point scale. The average U.S. math score was 470--20 points below the world average of 490. The U.S. scores in reading and science were fairly unimpressive as well, ranking right at average. 


3. From 2011-2015, e-cigarette use by teens has increased 900%

A new report from the Surgeon General warns that in 2015, 60 percent of teens were vapers. Experts suggest that they likely became interested in smoking because of the interesting flavors. Though vaping is harmful to everyone, it is especially dangerous to teens, because they are in a crucial developmental stage.

Photo: Shutterstock

12/2/16: 3 Articles You Need To Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!

1. A glossary of teens' secret language

Teens have long used slang words to communicate with each other, create bonds, and sometimes to keep adults in the dark. But with social media, teen language evolves even faster. This glossary, created with the input of teens, goes through common slang right now, creating an interesting picture of the way teen communication is unique. 

2. What does it mean to be a teen in 2016?

NBC Today interviewed a group of 15-17-year-olds to find out what it means to be a teenager in 2016. Some of the findings: it's more acceptable to hookup with someone than it is to hold hands at school; because of nearly-constant engagement with social media, they feel that they have no privacy; and they also feel more pressure to excel in school and be well-rounded in order to get into the best colleges.

3. A middle school uses kindness to put an end to bullying

A middle school in Idaho is taking an interesting approach to teaching bullying by launching a kindness campaign. One teacher had students write down the rude things they hear people say to each other, like "moron" and "dumb." Then, the students were instructed to squeeze out a tube of toothpaste and put it back in the tube. It was nearly impossible. One student, 13-year-old J.J. Martin, explained the meaning of this activity: "If you say something once, it's hard to take it back," he said. The students turned over their papers and covered them with kind words, an exercise in combating bullying with kindness.




Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

11/17/16: 4 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!

1. Depression is worsening in all teens, but especially in girls
According to a study published in Pediatrics, the number of teens ages 12 to 17 who experienced depressive episodes increased from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014. Researchers said that adolescent girls reported more cases of depression--in fact, the increase for girls was from 13 percent in 2015 to 17 percent in 2014, while boys went from 4 percent to 6 percent. More research is still needed as to why this is, but researchers say the increase may come down to cyberbullying among teen girls.

2. Coast to coast, high school students are staging walkouts to protest Trump
To express solidarity and lack of support for president-elect Donald Trump, high school students across the country have been walking out. "I would not walk all the way over here if I was trying to ditch school," said Los Angeles senior Stephanie Cierra, who is protesting Trump in honor of her immigrant parents. Students also protested in New York, Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon.

3. Unlike adults, teens pitch in despite income inequality
Among adults, those who make more money tend to donate more money to causes they believe in, but among teens this isn't the case, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The study found that teens living in "unequal counties" had slightly higher levels of civic engagement, believing that volunteering and helping in their community is important.

4. Starting school later could benefit teens
A published in Pediatrics found that it's not the amount of sleep that matters most for teens, but when they go to sleep and wake up. "It's like requiring an adult to get up five days a week at 3 a.m. . . . for adolescents to be expected to get up and function at a time when their circadian-driven alertness is at its lowest point in 24 hours," said Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Boston Children's Hospital.

Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

11/11/16: 5 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!


1. These teens are learning valuable skills and putting them to good use
Students in Washington D.C. are learning valuable design and construction skills, which they have already used to build a micro home. And soon, they will be using those skills--which also include knowledge of city building codes and permitting--to build a single-family home.

2. The suicide rate for middle schoolers has doubled from 2007 to 2014
In seven years, the rate of children ages 10-14 who commit suicide has doubled, and for the first time, surpassed the number of middle school children who die in car accidents. The underlying reasons for this rise are thought to be complex.
3. Teens who vape regularly are 10 times more likely to start smoking 
A study of 10th graders found that vaping regularly increases a teen's chances of developing a smoking habit. In fact, 20 percent of the students who regularly vaped were hooked on cigarettes within 6 months.
4. This teen bought Air Jordan shoes for his bullied classmate
Tae Moore, a high school student from South Carolina, bought Air Jordan tennis shoes for his classmate, Taylor Bates, a student who was being bullied. In a viral video, Moore can be seen giving the shoes to a surprised Bates.

5. It's important for teens to grapple with gender stereotypes
A class of sixth grade students recently learned how gender stereotypes affect how they think about themselves and others. Boys revealed they liked cooking and were emotional, and girls said they liked sports--all traits that are sometimes stereotyped to the opposite genders. It is believed that programs teaching students about gender roles and relationship misconceptions will help prevent domestic violence, and help kids better deal with their emotions. For more information on gender identity and how stereotypes affect teens, be sure to check out our story, "Who Said It?"

Maxwell Surprenant with fellow Kid Reporter Kaitlin Clark at a polling place in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016 (Brittany Sullivan for Scholastic)

11/4/16: 3 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!


1. Teens are reporting on an R-rated race to the presidency

This election season, the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps has kids ages 10 to 14 on the campaign trail. This has been tricky, because many of the issues are not age-appropriate. Fourteen-year-old Erik Weibel has had to skirt around contentious issues in order to make his reporting kid-appropriate.


2. There may be a reason behind tired teens' emotional outbursts

A recent study discovered that teens who stay up late into the night and have trouble waking up in the morning also have problems during the day with self-regulation, or the ability to control emotions such as anger and impulsivity. In order to encourage more sleep, many schools are pushing back start times, allowing teens to get a little more rest. For more information, read our story about a teen who campaigned to make her school start later.


The number of opioid-related hospitalizations among teens ages 15 to 19 has increased sharply since 1997, according to a new study. To increase awareness in teens, share this story that highlights the lives of teens whose lives were changed because of drug abuse. And for tips on how to teach about the dangers of addiction, be sure to check out this Teaching Tough Topics guide.


10/28/16: 5 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!

1. Drinking alcohol in combination with caffeine is harmful to teens' brain development
A new study found that alcohol and caffeine together can affect teen brains the same way cocaine changes the adult brain--and the damage can be long-lasting. For more information and real-life stories concerning teen addiction, check out our piece, "Heroin Took Over Our Town." Plus, our Teaching Tough Topics guide can help you discuss addiction in the classroom. Finally, you can encourage your teens to join this campaign to stand against addiction.

2. Teen-only spaces in the home may be advantageous
Setting aside semi-private spaces in the home can allow teens to have privacy. This also allows teens to hang out with friends and grow relationships independently, in their homes, but away from parents--a balance between privacy and supervision.

3. Parents can help teens when it comes to anxiety and depression
According to Fadi Haddad, psychiatrist and author of Helping Kids in Crisis, parents play a major role in teen mental health. You can help by becoming attuned to your teen's emotions, resisting anger, and paying attention without being overbearing.

4. High school dropout rates have drastically declined, but demographic differences remain
A recent report by the American Institutes for Research for the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics found that the dropout rate has nearly halved, from 14.1 percent in 1973 to 6.8 percent in 2013. There's still a demographic gap though, as the dropout rates for Asian and white students are lower than those of black and Hispanic students.

5. What keeps teens from getting college degrees?
Among high school students, there is an "aspirations-attainment" gap, meaning most high school students want to attend college, but many never make it. The New York Times is following a group of students in Topeka, Kansas, from high school to college, and posting daily updates along the journey. This evolving series of stories seeks to unearth the reasons why teens don't end up with college degrees, and what specific factors deter them.

Pressmaster via Shutterstock/Image ID:356431262

6 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!

1. Teen boys correct Trump in viral photo, saying sexual assault is not 'locker room banter'

"As an athlete I spend a lot of time in the locker room, and I'm around plenty of other athletes, and we definitely don't talk in a way that could degrade women," 17-year-old Rhys Atkinson said in response to Trump's crude comments that were excused as "locker room banter." Atkinson and five fellow high school athletes from Centennial High School in Gresham, Oregon, recently received praise when a photo of the group standing in their locker room wearing t-shirts with the phrase "Wild Feminist" went viral. The caption: "Sexual assault is not locker room banter." 

2. This election is a 'total mess' when it comes to teaching political topics in the classroom

"Honestly, I just can't wait until it's over," said Mr. Wathke, a seventh-grade teacher at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, about the upcoming election. Many aspects of the campaign that Mr. Wathke would like to teach on, including political ads and campaign cartoons, are just too risque to bring up in the classroom. One of Mr. Wathke's students, 12-year-old Connor Felton, weighed in on the election, saying, "I think if you repeat some stuff that Trump says, you could get sent down to the principal's office. Maybe even expelled." These issues can be tough, but taking advantage of our Teaching Tough Topics guide can help you bring the election to the classroom!

3. High schools are being open about drug addiction in order to prevent it

Heroin use among high school students has declined over the past few years, but use in young adults ages 18-25 has doubled since 2002. Educators at John Marshall High School in Glen Dale, West Virginia, located in a state with the highest number of drug overdose-related deaths, are realizing that preventing addiction starts in high school, so they created the Marshall County Drug Free Club. The goal is to be open about drug use and get students involved in standing against substance abuse. Parents are encouraged to reinforce these messages at home. This month, our "Heroin Took Over Our Town" story discusses the heroin epidemic through stories of real teens affected by substance abuse. Our Teaching Tough Topics guide can help you bring the issue to the classroom.

4. The Crisis Text Line released important data concerning bullying, that everyone should be aware of

Bullying is an important issue, especially for teens, and almost 15% of high school students report that they have been bullied in the past year. The Crisis Text Line released results that bullying is reported most during school lunch breaks and before bed. Bullying spikes on Wednesdays and Thursdays and cyberbullying is prominent on Sundays. They also found there is an 110% increase in suicide risk associated with cyberbullying.

5. Parents may have more power than they think when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy

A recent survey released by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy suggests that teens ages 12-17 are most influenced by their parents when it comes to sex decision. Parental influence wanes as teens get older, but parents are still second to friends when it comes to sexual influence in young adults ages 18-24.  

6. Who are the most influential teens of 2016?

Time released their annual list of the most influential, changemaking teens of 2016. Teens featured on the list include "Stranger Things" actor Gaten Matarazzo, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, the first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, and more.



XiXinXing/Shutterstock/Image ID: 439514779

4 Articles You Need to Read This Week

We know you're busy--that's why we're keeping up on the news for you. Here are some of the latest articles about teen health that are worth your time. Check back every Friday for more headlines you may have missed!


New data from the federal road regulators reveal a 10 percent increase in teen driving deaths

The results show that teens are one-and-a-half times more likely than adults to be involved in a deadly crash. The most common driving mistake teens make is speeding, followed by distracted driving practices, like texting and using Snapchat. Our recent story, "Danger Behind the Wheel," discusses the importance of safe driving for teens, encouraging teens to commit to distraction-free driving by taking our Power Passenger Pledge. Driver safety can be a sensitive one to discuss in the classroom, but we've compiled some resources to make approaching this weighty topic easier, all in time for National Teen Driver Safety Week next week.


More than 62 million girls around the world are not getting the classroom education they deserve, and Michelle Obama wants that to change

Tuesday was International Day of the Girl, and in perfect timing, Michelle Obama wrote a piece for CNN discussing the importance of global education for girls. Mrs. Obama discussed the fact that many girls around the world don't have a voice and are not able to get the education that all girls deserve. She encouraged all to visit her initiative, Let Girls Learn, and to watch the new CNN film, "We Will Rise," starring Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, that was released this week.


Teens have more growing pains in their brains than they do in their bodies

It's no news that teens tend to have crazy spontaneity and raging emotions. The question becomes, why? The teen brain changes rapidly, with nerve cells growing at rates four to five times faster than those of adults. This affects teens' rationality and increases reward-seeking behavior. This also means that teens have tremendous, flexible brain power.


8 anti-bullying resources for the classroom

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and these resources, apps, and tools will help you keep a bully-free classroom. Apps like The BullyBox, which was created by a teen, empower students to have a voice by allowing them to anonymously report bullying incidents and stand up for their peers.