Must safeguard themselves

Kids Count

While parents, teachers, youth advocates, clergy, law enforcement and many supporting or focused youth agencies work to protect youth, in the end, teens themselves must be their own greatest protector.

The adults around youth can educate, supervise them and model healthy behaviors as well. Ultimately, it will be up to teens to regulate their behavior.

At one time, the focus of concern was around alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use. Now, prescription drug abuse has been added to this lethal risk constellation.

These risks represent a lethal threat to teens around the country. Most scientists believe that adolescent brain development is still evolving for most teens. While many teens may look mature, their brains are still developing and this developmental process affects decision making and those decisions, drinking or drugging, can and does heavily influence brain development in adolescence.

In adolescence, most brain material is in place as adolescence begins as is the size of the brain. During this crucial “hard wiring” of the brain, adolescents may seem snarly or moody at times. They can also take imprudent risks, especially around alcohol, drugs or sex. Teens may become more secretive during these periods, are much more influenced by friends and less able to consider the possible negative consequences of their actions.

Most auto accidents happen in adolescence, in fact, the first 1,000 days of driving are the most dangerous. Many of these accidents are related to drinking and driving. Many more are related to speed unreasonable for the conditions and I would add the driver’s inexperience. These events are not accidental, as the brain matures and ends it growth trajectory, more rational behavior occurs as a result in a variety of areas.

In essence, teens must learn to survive or to reduce harm to themselves from poor decisions while their brain fully develops. When incomplete brain development is coupled with inexperience, it is not surprising that teens may experience higher risk levels than other age groups in a variety of life situations.

Reach the writer at hurlburt@wildblue.net.

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