GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

Last week my kids (14, 16 and 19) had a friend over hanging out with us for the evening. After dinner, this young man mentioned how fun it was to jump off the local bridge into the river (about a 50 foot drop into the rocky waters below).

My son and middle daughter began riding his case. “Don’t be stupid. Don’t you know you could get paralyzed…or even die!”

This young man just laughed.

What is it with teenagers and risky behaviors? Is it getting worse?

The Center for Disease Control (The CDC) actually tracks risky teenage behaviors and compiles it into a bi-annual report. Last week they released their latest of these reports with 2011 numbers…and the numbers weren’t anything to celebrate.

This report tracks anything from seat belt use, smoking, bullying, fighting, sexual activity…even texting while driving. Some numbers were good. For example, less young people are drinking and driving, and more are wearing a seatbelt compared to decades prior. But some of the numbers weren’t good news. 1 in 3 high school students are now texting while driving. And 23% of high schoolers are regular, or what the CDC calls “current,” marijuana users.

I always find it interesting how the press spins reports like this. What is the “headline” news here? Seatbelt use is better? Or maybe, Marijuana use is worse?

Personally, as a 20-year youth ministry veteran and a parent, I immediately turned my focus to three of these risky behaviors: drinking, marijuana use, and sexual activity. I find these three behaviors the most enticing and the most costly for mainstream young people today.

Let’s start with the good news. Drinking actually decreased a little bit among high school students. The number of current drinkers (high school students who have drank in the last 30 days) dropped from 41.8% in 2009 to 38.7% in 2011. This isn’t really a statistically significant drop, but at least it didn’t go up.

I wish we could say the same for marijuana use. Sadly, the number of student who have ever used marijuana went from 36.8% in 2009 to 39.9% in 2011. And the number of current users (used in the last 30 days) went from 20.8% in 2009 to 23.1% in 2011.

Sexual activity didn’t go down either; it actually went up a notch. Lots of numbers here, but the key number in 2011 is 47.4% of high school students have ever had sexual intercourse, up from 46.0% in 2009. That is really statistically insignificant, but it’s definitely NOT what headlines were claiming about 8 month ago, “Teens are Having Less Sex.” Very misleading (which is why I wrote this article setting the record straight back then). This new report only furthers this sad reality.

In my personal blog I just went through these numbers in great detail. So if you want to find out exactly how many 9th graders vs. 12th graders are having sex, or you want to see how this CDC report stands compared to similar reports, check out my blog on the subject. Or, if you want to read the whole 100+ page report yourself, just download it from the CDC site.

Question from Doug: Are statistics like this depressing or do they give you hope/inspiration for your calling? I’m curious. Share it here.

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