10 Things Your Teen Shouldn’t Be Doing

typical teenage behavior

Teenagers need their freedom, but they also need our guidance. They want more opportunities to make their own choices; we want to feel more comfortable before we give them those chances. Teenagers often think they should have more freedom than they can actually handle. And even if a teen is responsible and mature for his or her age, there is typical teenage behavior he or she should not be doing.

Here are 10 things your teens should not be doing.

1. Using technology to send inappropriate pictures or words.

It’s known by various names like “sexting,” but the alarming number of teens who engage in the practice of sending photos and words that they’d never want some (like their parents, or a future employer) to see is disturbing. According to a recent survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens are sending or posting nude or semi-nude photos or themselves, and 39% are sending/posting sexually suggestive messages. Your teen must realize that they can’t control who sees this content, and that it never truly goes away. Ever. iMOM’s Cell Phone Contract and Family Internet Contract can help you set expectations and keep tabs on how your child is using technology.

2. Drinking alcohol.

A 2011 youth risk behavior survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that 39% of teens had consumed some amount of alcohol in the prior 30 days and 22% binge drank. Eight percent of respondents drove after drinking and 24% rode with a driver who’d been drinking. Alcohol increases your teen’s risk of death or injury in a car crash or other accident and may permanently alter her still-developing brain. No amount is truly safe at this age.

Drinking and Drugs Discussion Guide

3. Living off of fast food.

Your teen is busy—always on the go between classes, rehearsals, and practices. The temptation to eat unhealthy food on the go is great. But those bodies and minds that are still growing and changing need good nutrition just as much as when they were toddlers. Make family meal-times a regular occurrence for nutritional and relationship reasons.

4. Dabbling in your medicine cabinet.

Teenage culture is built on a hunger for risk-taking and new experiences. Adolescents are notoriously creative in terms of finding substances to experiment with, and they usually don’t come from a shady dealer on the corner. They most likely come from your family medicine cabinet. Throw away unused prescriptions and keep tabs on other medications which may contain ingredients like alcohol that teens use for recreational purposes.

5. Chugging coffee and energy drinks.

More teens today are fueling their bodies and minds with potent energy drinks and strong coffee. While these legal drinks may seem less concerning, high levels of caffeine can cause health problems and mask your child’s need for real food and sleep. Additionally, the teen trend of combining energy drinks with alcohol is extremely dangerous. While a daily cup of joe probably won’t do any harm, keep up with how much your kids are drinking.

6. Having sex.

The obvious risk of pregnancy is reason enough to help your child avoid sexual activity until marriage. But the lesser-discussed repercussions like contracting an STD, suffering depression, and an increased risk of suicide are just as real. There’s also a teen mindset that oral sex isn’t “really” sex—but it, too, comes with risks. Make sure your teen understands that birth control alone can’t protect them from the perils of sex, and that waiting can spare them undue stress and heartbreak.

7. Coming and going without checking in.

It’s so simple, yet takes real work on a parent’s part: always knowing where your teen is, who he’s with, and what he’s doing. Just staying aware of these basics at all times makes it harder for your teen to engage in activities or behaviors you want him to avoid. Do the hard work and don’t take anything for granted. Ask, then verify. And that phone you pay for? It needs to be on and answered every time you call.

8. Driving or riding with other teens or texting behind the wheel.

The risk of your teen being injured or killed in an auto accident rises dramatically when he or she is in the car with other teenagers or using a cell phone behind the wheel. Teen crash risks also skyrocket when alcohol is involved. Make sure your teen stays within safe driving boundaries by requiring them to abide by iMOM’s Teen Driving Contract, and have the backbone to revoke privileges when necessary.

9. Using tanning beds.

Teen girls are known for turning to the tanning salon when it’s time for a school dance or spring break to get bronze for the big event. But the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban on indoor tanning for minors, based upon an alarming increase in deadly skin cancers among young adults with a history of tanning bed use. Several states have imposed restrictions on teen tanning, and the FDA has called for labeling on beds which states that they should not be used by consumers under 18. How much more warning do you need, mom? Direct your teen toward the bronzing lotion or offer a spray tan before the big dance.

10. Keeping secrets and shutting you out.

It’s natural for teenagers to crave a little more independence and privacy, but you can’t effectively parent them if you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. Make time every week to just catch up with your teen. Hang out a little while and find out what this week’s drama is about at the middle or high school. Keeping your relationship open and constant can be the difference between spotting a major problem before it’s too late, or missing it altogether. If you sense that your child is working hard to hide something from you—be concerned and get to work discerning what it is.

 What would you add to the list?

Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.