An Ontario-based survey conducted for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) indicates that a significant portion of teens are ignoring messages against texting while behind the wheel. In fact, 50 percent of the grade 12 students involved in the survey admitted to texting while driving, while a third of young licensed drivers overall have said they’ve pulled out their cellphone at some point while behind the wheel.
I would hazard a guess that teens aren’t the only ones who are engaging in this illegal, and dangerous, behaviour. I’ll admit that I’ve pulled out my phone every once in a while, and I see drivers almost every day with a device in hand. When it comes to teens, role models are important and if this is a case of “monkey see, monkey do” then we are all in trouble. To that end, the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne responded to this study with a renewed promise to crack down on texting while driving.
In contrast, the study found drinking and driving rates have declined over the last 20 years. The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health study has been carried out annually since 1977.
However, texting while driving wasn’t the only issue that received attention in the survey. CAMH also found that girls reported higher rates of self-esteem issues, and have contemplated suicide nearly double the amount as their male classmates. More than 80 percent of teens visit social media sites daily, and about 10 percent of them spend five hours or more online every day. One in five teens play video games daily, with boys playing four times more than girls.
Alcohol is still a big factor in kids’ lives—49 percent of teens in grades seven to 12 have tried alcohol, with almost three-quarters of grade 12 students saying that they drink. A third of grade 11 and grade 12 teens play drinking games, while a third of grade 12 students engage in hazardous drinking behaviour.
Teens are wired to make dumb mistakes. It’s biological—their pre-frontal cortex hasn’t developed enough to help them make good decisions. It is a time of testing, failing and, ultimately, succeeding. As parents, we have to find the line between allowing them to make mistakes, and ensuring those mistakes aren’t deadly. The best we can do is set a positive example.