A Family Affair
Parents play a vital role in teenagers’ safety.
By Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
Our teenagers are learning to drive, and we have warned them of the dangers of alcohol and also the risk of being a passenger with someone who is driving under the influence. Are there other issues we should address in order to best equip them to become safe drivers?
There are many stresses for both parents and teenagers when driving instruction is taking place.
Some interesting findings on the topic were recently published in the United States from research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).* Teen risk factors associated with motor vehicle accident fatalities actually declined between 1991 and 2011, specifically in regard to not wearing a seat belt and riding in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking. It’s nevertheless sobering to note that one in three teen deaths is caused by auto accidents.
The same survey noted a 70 percent drop in the number of students who rode without a seat belt, and a 20 percent drop in those who traveled with a driver who had taken alcohol. Between 1997 and 2011 there was a 53 percent decrease in the number of students who drove after drinking alcohol. These statistics are not ideal, but nevertheless denote a positive trend.
In the first annual study of technology-associated risks, data from the 2010-2011 survey showed that one in three teens sent a text message or an e-mail while driving within the previous 30 days of the survey. This attempt at multitasking is a cause of distraction and a major risk for drivers. The trend is occurring despite the fact that 44 states have passed laws banning texting and e-mailing while driving. Motor vehicle accidents, however, remain the number-one cause of death among teenagers. Caution and counsel your teenagers against texting and driving!
Although there are many benefits to the amazing communication technology available today, these advances have come at a price. We’re living in the most “connected” generation ever, but despite the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and instant messaging, in some respects young people are growing up emotionally and socially disconnected, with ever-decreasing “eye” contact!
Cyberbullying is also on the increase. This same technology-risk survey found that 16 percent of the students had been bullied via e-mail, chat rooms, Web sites, and instant or text messages, and that cyberbullying occurs most commonly among White females in tenth grade.
Tobacco and Marijuana Use
An analysis of additional data studied between 2009 and 2011 showed no significant drop in the current cigarette use among students (19 versus 18 percent); during the same time period, marijuana use increased among teenagers from 21 to 23 percent, and has become more common than current cigarette use. These are worrying trends.
The Adult Connection
These statistics and data bring into sharp focus the importance of close connectedness between parents and teenagers in order to promote resilience and resistance to these at-risk behaviors. In addition to the connectedness with adults of significance, teenagers need to be anchored to positive values, such as those found in committed Christian families. It’s vital for families to spend quality time together communicating, sharing, playing, and praying.
Young people need mentoring as well as encouragement to participate in service initiatives. These activities have been shown to further strengthen resilience, reduce at risk behaviors, and may even save lives on the road. It is, after all, a family affair.
* D. K. Eaton et al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance— United States, 2011,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Surveillance Summaries 61, no. 4 (June 8, 2012): 1-162.
Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist,
is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist,
is an associate director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.