This is a guest post from Jonathan McKee.

“Are today’s teenagers engaging in more risky behaviors than before?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually produces a bi-annual report that looks for these answers, analyzing teenage risky behaviors like sexual activity, smoking, drinking, fighting, driving without seatbelts, etc. Last week their brand new report with 2011 numbers was released.

Want to know the bottom line?

Good luck. It really depends whose headlines you read. The CDC press release about the report is actually titled, U.S. High School Students Improve Motor Vehicle-related Health Behaviors. And sure enough, more kids are wearing seatbelts, less are drinking and driving, or riding with a driver who has been drinking. But are those the main risky behaviors teenagers are engaging in?

What risky behaviors concern you? Last night my daughter Alyssa began asking me random questions off a questionnaire on her Pinterest page, questions like: What are your 3 biggest fears? or What makes you happy?What started as just Alyssa and I, ended up being my entire family laying around the couch answering Alyssa’s questions. Ashley, my 14-year-old caught my attention with one of her answers to, “What makes you happy?”One of Ashley’s answers was, “When I’m doing something crazy!”

I was a little nervous until she started expanding on her answer, talking about more extreme sport type activities. I guess everyone has different definitions of “risky” or “crazy.”

3 Risky Behaviors:
When I read the report, I immediately was curious about three risky behaviors that I see affecting teenagers for the long-haul: marijuana use, drinking, and sexual activity. I’m not minimizing risky behaviors like bringing a weapon to school or even using hallucinogenic drugs. It’s just that in my 20 years of youth ministry, I’ve seen more pain, heartache and natural consequences from these three risky behaviors on mainstream teenagers than any others.

Here’s what this newest CDC report had to say about these three areas:

Sexual Activity:
Contrary to what the headlines have been saying the last six months, teenage sexual activity is up a notch.

Some of you might remember me bringing some headlines to your attention last October. In October the CDC released another report titled the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) report, revealing that only about 42% of American teenagers have had sex. Headlines immediately appeared claiming Young People Are Having Less Sex!

Is this true?

Unfortunately…not in the last decade.

Many of you probably remember a Youth Culture Window article I wrote titled, “Are Teenagers Really Having Less Sex?” In that article I cited other reports, including CDC’s past Youth Risk Behavior Reports, showing you a nice little chart revealing a decline from 1988 to 2001, then a “leveling off” since then. I told my co-workers. “Let’s wait until the new Youth Risk Behavior Report comes out from the CDC and we’ll see if teenage sexual activity is down.”

Well, the report came out last week, and the numbers aren’t down. The sexual activity headlines should basically be, “Almost Half of High School Students Having Sex.” Here’s a glimpse at these new numbers (the new 2012 report reveals 2011 numbers) compared to the last report two years ago (with 2009 numbers)

Download the entire report to see the breakdown of all grades, races and geographic locations for several different categories of sexual behaviors.

NOTE: The “confidence interval” that the CDC puts on this report is 95%. So these changes of 1% or so really aren’t statistically significant.

So basically, risky sexual behaviors haven’t really gone up or down. But hopefully the little bump up in numbers will at least silence the headlines that are claiming, “Teens are having less sex!” How come we don’t see a headline stating, 63% of teenagers will have sex by the time they walk across the stage to collect their high school diploma?

Marijuana Use:
Up a little more than a notch.

Want to read the rest of this article? Go here!

What about you?
Are you talking with young people enough about decision making in these areas?

How can you engage young people in conversations, not lectures, about these areas?”

“Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, and youth ministry books like Ministry By TeenagersConnect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming?Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com andTheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.”

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