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How to Understand the Secret Life of an American Teenager

Does your adolescent share as little information as possible with you? Get an idea of what’s going on in the secret life of an American teenager.


  • Step 1: Texting is a big part of every teenager’s life -- don't be naive about your teen's SMS habits. 45 percent of American teenagers admit to texting and driving, while only 4 percent of parents believe their teens would ever engage in such risky behavior. 41 percent admit they've sexted; just 11 percent of parents think their teens might have done so.
  • Step 2: Keep the lines of communication open -- the fewer secrets the better. The majority of American teenagers look to their parents as role models, so talk to them often about your values and expectations. And, most of all, try to be the kind of person you want them to grow into.
  • FACT: 31 percent of American teenagers expect to be famous one day, according to research.
  • Step 3: Tell your teen about the dangers of binge drinking. Parents underestimate teenage binge drinking in general, and their own children's imbibing in particular. Yet research also shows that parents have much greater influence over their children's alcohol use than they think they do.
  • TIP: In a Columbia University poll, more teens said prescription drugs were easy to buy than beer.
  • Step 4: Keep tabs on your teen's online life. 73 percent of teenagers who are online use social networking sites. And about 25 percent of them say they've been the victims of cyber-bullies, and 90 percent keep it a secret from their parents.
  • Step 5: Be aware that prescription pill abuse among teens is a problem. 63 percent of high school students say that prescription drugs are easy to steal from their parents' medicine cabinets. Consider moving medications where your teen is less likely to find them, and talk to them about the dangers of these drugs.
  • Step 6: Be relieved to know that your teen might not as promiscuous as you fear: a recent survey found that fewer high school students are sexually active now compared to the early 90s. Whether they're sexually active or not, make sure they're educated about birth control and STD prevention.

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