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Maryland Youth Behavior Survey Gives Honest Glimpse Into Teen Lives

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It’s not always easy for parents to get honest answers from their teens. But a new statewide study is offering new insight into what they’re doing and thinking.

Monique Griego has more on the report that looks at all types of behavior, from drinking and drugs to bullying and obesity.

A new study gives state health leaders a glimpse into the minds of Maryland teens.

“It looks at all youth behaviors across the board. It gives us an idea of what they’re thinking, what they’re doing,” said Dr. Donald Shell, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

Shell gave WJZ an overview of the 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The study, approved by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, surveyed more than 50,000 teens in the state, grades 9 through 12.

Shell says the answers given are extremely valuable because the teens stay completely anonymous.

“They can honestly give us their thoughts and we can understand what they’re experiencing,” Shell said.

The study, which looked at data over eight years, shows significant improvements in several key areas.

From 2005 to 2013, Maryland teens increased their physical activity and showed drops in bullying at school and alcohol consumption. Cigarette use also saw a smaller decrease.

“There are many things that children are doing that show their health status is improving,” Shell said.

The report also found some negative trends. Teens admitted to using more smokeless tobacco, injectable drugs and a decreased use of seat belts.

But health leaders say, identifying these types of bad behaviors as a growing problem is a step in the right direction. They’ll now work with schools to put this information to use.

“To maybe look at directing policies, directing programs and directing the type of education the children need to receive,” Shell said.

This was the first year the report included questions on sexual behavior, sexual violence and sexual identity. So there was limited data on any trends in that area.

If you’d like to view the entire report, click here.

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