Natalia Pane, a statistician and parent, wrote an interesting book called The Worry Clock in response to the natural tendency of parents to worry lots and not always with good reason. Her motivation in writing this book was to show how parents often, in fact, worry about the wrong things. So she set out to demonstrate, based on the statistical likelihood of something happening, which things a parent should worry about most within an average 60-minute timeframe.
Think, for example, of how much time parents spend worrying about Internet predators luring their unknowing teens into danger. It may then be a surprise to learn that the chance of this happening is very tiny. In fact, according to the US Department of Justice, most victims are not lured unsuspectingly at all, but meet their predators willingly. Cars, on the other hand, present a huge risk to teen welfare. If parents were to worry about car accidents proportionately to the total level of risk, they would spend 46 minutes of every hour of worry obsessing about the dangers of teen driving. Yet, records show that by age 20 almost 92% of American youth possess a driver’s license, presumably with their parents’ approval (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute).
While teens still face many risks today, the good news is that teens are, on the whole, doing much better than the media and popular opinion portray! Here are some facts about teen risks to help you more accurately focus your worries and better direct your parenting energy towards helping your children stay healthy and safe.
Parent-child relationships are the key to adolescent development and well being.
- Be present and engaged with your teen.
- Continue to talk about safe sex.
- Support kids’ activities and keep them busy to avoid substance use.
- Help young teens practice refusal skills to combat peer pressure.
- Enforce safe driving rules: no technology, no more than 2 passengers, enough sleep
- Be alert for signs of teen depression and don’t hesitate to get help.
- If you are the parent of a Black male teen, have “The Talk”. Be frank and help him to be alert and prepared as possible for potential conflict and troublesome situations.
- Trust your teens and don’t become overly alarmed with the little things. Most are doing well, are not engaging in risky behaviors and are on track to become healthy, productive adults.
Article by Becky Mather
Becky is an Outreach Specialist for the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Much of her work centers on parenting education and adolescent development. She and her husband are the parents of two young adults and a 13 year old son. Becky is a Certified Family Life Educator.