Study: Teens are drinking less, texting more
NEW YORK - American teens are smoking less, drinking less, and fighting less. But they're texting behind the wheel and spending a lot of time on video games and computers, according to the government's latest study of worrisome behavior.
Generally speaking, the news is good. Most forms of drug use, weapons use, and risky sex have been going down since the government started doing the survey every two years in 1991. Teens are wearing bicycle helmets and seatbelts more, too.
"Overall, young people have more healthy behaviors than they did 20 years ago," said Stephanie Zaza, who oversees the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The results come from a study of 13,000 U.S. high school students last spring. Participation was voluntary and required parental permission, but responses were anonymous.
Highlights of the study, released Thursday:
Fewer than 16 percent of the teens smoked a cigarette in the previous month - and the rate was typically half that in big cities, including the Philadelphia School District, although other smoking measures here were high. The national level was the lowest since the government started doing the survey, when the rate was more than 27 percent. The survey did not ask about electronic cigarettes. Meanwhile, more than 23 percent of teens nationally (25 percent in Philadelphia) said they used marijuana in the previous month - up from 15 percent in 1991.
Fights at school fell by half in the last 20 years, and there was a dramatic drop in kids reporting they had been in a fight anywhere in the preceding year - about 25 percent, (35 percent in Philadelphia, which was among the highest of big-city school districts), down from 33 percent two years earlier. Added security measures may be a factor, said school violence expert Todd DeMitchell of the University of New Hampshire.
Among teen drivers, 41 percent had texted or e-mailed behind the wheel in the previous month.
Fewer teens said they drank alcohol.
Staff writer Don Sapatkin contributed to this article.