Yes, dear parent, the cringe-worthy topics are coming, if they haven’t started already: Drugs. Partying. Body parts. Bodily fluids. Discrimination. Rape. Bullying. Depression. Pregnancy. Suicide. Things were so much easier when your children were kids; now, your kids are careening toward young adulthood. This transition has befuddled parents since Cain and Abel were teenagers.

As you know, sometimes questions don’t have clean answers. The best we can do is know the facts and take a stance. Don’t shy away from the tough subjects. If you keep an open mind and an open door, chances are your teenager will be more open about their experiences with drugs, sex and other taboo topics with you. You can’t offer parental guidance and wisdom if they don’t trust you enough to have an honest conversation with you.

The good news is that most teenagers in Columbia don’t engage in risky behavior. For instance…

  • More than 61 percent of Columbia Public Schools’ students in grades 8-12 have never used alcohol. That number includes a majority of high-school freshmen (64.3 percent), sophomores (57 percent) and juniors (55 percent).
  • More than 84 percent of Columbia Public Schools’ students in grades 8-12 steadfastly refused to ride in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that alcohol use by all grades declined significantly in 2014 when compared to 2009.
  • When asked about recent behaviors in a 2013 survey, more than 90 percent of Columbia Public Schools’ students in grades 8-12 said they didn’t use the Internet to post or share potentially hurtful or embarrassing information about another student, yet 14.2 percent of those students said they had been on the receiving end of a harmful posting. Hmm.
  • Nearly 88 percent of students said they didn’t use a cell phone to send harmful or embarrassing texts or pictures, but 16 percent said they had received a hurtful message via text.
  • Only 1 Columbia Public School high school senior out of 200 admitted to using methamphetamines in a 2013 survey. Same with heroin.
  • Ninety-four percent of Columbia Public Schools’ students in grades 8-12 have not used hallucinogins like acid and mushrooms.
  • Nationally, illicit drug use among junior high and high school students continues to decrease annually. Inhalant use, for example, dropped to 5.3 percent of 8th graders in 2014 from a high of 12.8 percent in 1995. Locally, nearly 97 percent of Columbia Public Schools’ students in grades 8-12 have not used inhalants.