The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released its 2007 report “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance,” a nationally representative sample of 14,000 American students in grades 9-12 that includes national, state and local surveys.
The good news is that fewer teens engage in risky behavior. The bad news is that far too many of them still do!
Teens continue to have less sex: in the early 1990s, more than half of teens reported that they were no longer virgins, whereas in the CDC report for 2007, that number had dropped to only 48 percent. Equally important, fewer teens have had multiple sexual partners: in the early 90s, 19 percent reported having four or more partners, but in 2007 that number was only 15 percent. Sadly, fully 35 percent of high school students describe themselves as sexually active and almost 40 percent of them did not use a condom during their last intercourse.
Further, fewer teens are into drugs (marijuana use is down, as is methamphetamine use), alcohol use is down (from 42 percent reporting having a drink in the previous month in 1991 to 35 percent today), more wear seat belts (only 12 percent admit to not seat-belting), an additional 10 percent of students now will refuse to get in a car with a driver who has been drinking, and fewer smoke cigarettes than teens in the 1990s (though 20 percent still smoke).
Other risky behaviors continue. Over 35 percent watch three or more hours of television on an average school day, almost 80 percent have not had the daily recommended fruits and vegetables, more than 33 percent drink soft drinks during the day, and more than 65 percent fail to meet recommended levels of physical activity.
Much has been made of the “news” that the trend for delaying sex has leveled off and that progress seems to have stalled. The data in several areas of sexual activity peaked in 2003, but the changes have not been statistically significant. Some areas have inched downward or seem to have reached a plateau; some continue the trends, but not in significant ways.
The important information is that during the period from 1991 to 2007, teen sexual activity dropped, teen pregnancies declined and abortions declined. All of these positive developments coincide with the increased prevalence and greater sophistication of abstinence programs. No wonder the comprehensive sex education establishment is looking for opportunities to debunk their effectiveness.