Studies indicate today's teens are better behaved than parents

By Danielle Koleniak, NBC News | Posted - Feb. 7, 2012 at 7:28 p.m.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — New studies say teenagers are behaving better than their parents did: Fewer are drinking, smoking, doing drugs and having sex than their parents were 30 years ago.

Florida mother Deby Emmers remembers her days in the ‘80s pretty clearly and speaks about it to her daughter as an open book. "We were all doing drugs, we were all crazy," she said.

Studies say at least 60 percent of teens were doing the same thing in 1980. Today, the number of high school students who have tried marijuana has dropped to 45.5 percent, and the declines run across the board.

In 1980, 72 percent of high school students were drinking. Today, that number has dropped to 32 percent.

According to the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Survey, high school seniors today are behaving better than their parents did.

And it's not just the marijuana.

In 1980, 72 percent of high school students were drinking. Today, that number has dropped to 32 percent.

"I think the number has dropped because more parents are like me, and we're open with our kids and we discuss it with our kids," Emmers said.

In 1988, half of boys age 15 to 17 had experienced sex, and that number was 37.2 percent for girls. But now it's 28 percent for boys and 27 percent for girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The legal drinking age changing to 21 and fear of HIV are possible contributors to the decline, but Emmers' daughter, 15-year-old high school student Hunner Jenkins, says for her, it's because of the open communication with her mom that relieves that pressure.

"I like being me, not influenced by someone else," she said.

Emmers says that is exactly what she has been trying to achieve as a parent.

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Danielle Koleniak
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