Education News

Jul 6, 2011 11:55 AM by Dennis Bragg

Montana teens drinking less, wearing seat belts

(HELENA)- A new survey says Montana teens are consuming less alcohol and wearing their seatbelts more often. But more kids are reporting they've been bullied at school.

Those are some of the highlights of the finds in the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey released Wednesday by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. The 93-item questionnaire is prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is completed in February every other year.

The latest results show what OPI is calling a "significant decrease" in teen alcohol use since 2009. The number of teens who had a drink in the month before taking the survey dropped from 43% two years ago to 38% this year. Binge drinking, considered to have five or more drinks at once, dropped from 30% to 25%.

And the survey shows teens are finally getting the message about using their seatbelts. A decade ago, 19% said they "rarely wore a seatbelt". Now that's down to 13%. Intoxicated driving dropped from 22% in 2001 to 11% this year.

"The YRBS survey reminds us how important it is to continually engage youth in frank conversations about risky behaviors," stated Superintendent Denise Juneau. "It also gives us an opportunity to confront our biggest challenges in ensuring the safety of our young people and highlights the efforts of effective programs whose messages are reaching students."

However, other problems persist.

For the second time, teens were asked about bullying, which authorities often consider as a "gateway" to other problems like substance abuse, suicide and teen violence. Over a quarter of Montana high school students, and half of middle school students said they had been bullied on school property, which is a sizable jump from two years ago.

And the growing prevalence of bullying through text messaging and social media sites is also showing up in the new report. 19% of high school students and nearly 24% of middle school students in Montana said they had been victims of bullying online, both up between 2 and 5%.

"Bullying continues to remain a major issue for Montana students and requires action by administrators, teachers, parents and policymakers," stated Juneau. "We're losing kids from our classrooms because of bullying, and as adults, we need to take this seriously and make a concerted effort to provide safe learning environments for students."

New to the 2011 survey were two questions regarding distracted driving behaviors. Fifty percent of students report having texted or e-mailed while driving a car during the past 30 days, and 53 percent talked on a cell phone while driving a car during the past 30 days.

Students were also asked for the first time about prescription drug abuse. More than 18 percent of Montana high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription.

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