Taking a risk mean doing something that could be dangerous or cause harm. Teens face many new risks as part of growing up. Choices about drugs and alcohol, driving, sex, and social media can be life-changing.
You can help your teen practise taking smart risks and making smart decisions.
Research shows the brain is still developing until your mid-20s. The pleasure centre of a teen brain develops before the judgment centre. That’s why teens often:
Risk-taking is important for your teen's development. You can let them try new things while helping them to understand how to stay safe.
In Canada, alcohol is the substance that is most used by teens in Grades 7 to 12. About 2 out of 5 of these teens say they've used alcohol in the past 12 months.
Using alcohol, cannabis and other drugs can lead to higher risks because they affect your teen's:
Using alcohol, cannabis and other drugs can put your teen at higher risk of:
Risks can be higher if your teen is younger when they start to use or if they use often. For example, because cannabis may change how your teen's brain develops, it can affect their learning, memory, and mental health for the rest of their life.
It's never too early to talk with your teen about the risks of using substances. These conversations can help you create a supportive relationship. If you suspect your teen might be using substances, respond and learn why. Then you and your teen can come up with strategies to lower their risk and help them use less. You can also reach out to a healthcare provider if you're concerned about your teen's substance use.
Taking on new responsibilities like driving will help a teen mature.
You can lower some risks by making sure that your teen gets safety training when learning to drive. And remember that you are your teen's role model. Show them how you drive safely by limiting distractions and always wearing your seatbelt. And
never drive while using alcohol or drugs. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for young people in Canada, so it's important to talk with your teen about safe driving decisions.
Exploring their own gender and sexuality can affect how teens feel about themselves. Teens face many big decisions about sex and relationships. These decisions come with risks around pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Teens also need to understand consent: what it is and how to ask for and give ongoing consent.
More than half of reported STIs in Alberta are in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Talk with your teen about sexual health. Be an "askable adult" and talk to your teen about making safer decisions around sex. Tell them you can answer any questions they have and connect them to sexual health services in your community.
Teens use technology in many ways, such as texting, gaming, social networking, and online chatting. But they may not know about the risks.
For example, pictures and messages your teen thinks are private can be shared. This can harm their self-image, mental health, and relationships.
Talk to your teen about cyberbullying and
sexting (sharing sexual pictures, messages, or videos by smartphone). Tell them they can talk to you or another adult they trust if something they see or receive upsets them.
Remember that even though it may not seem like it, teens need your support and guidance. Here are ways you can guide your teen as they develop:
Talking to your teen often about everyday things can help you have open communication. Remember that every talk doesn’t have to be a “big talk”.
Here are some more tips to help you talk to your teen:
Teen Risk-Taking: Tips for parents
Current as of: March 24, 2022
Author: Sexual and Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.