TIME Sex/Relationships

Teens Aren’t Using the Most Effective Birth Control

IUD birthcontrol
Photo Illustration by Mia Tramz for TIME; Corbis

A new CDC report reveals few teens use IUDs and implants

American teenagers are getting better at practicing safe sex, but a new federal report reveals very few teens are using the most effective forms of birth control.

In the new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at 2005–2013 data from the Title X National Family Planning Program on teen contraceptive use and found that teen use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)—such as the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant—are up but still very low. The numbers show that U.S. teen LARC use increased from under 1% in 2005 to 7% in 2013. Implants were used more than IUDs by women of all ages. The state with the highest use of LARC among its teens in 2013 was Colorado at 26%. All other states ranged from use of less than 1% to 20%.

Currently, teens are opting for methods like condoms and birth control pills, which while still good options, are less effective and more prone to incorrect or inconsistent use.

MORE: Why The Most Effective Form of Birth Control is the One No One Uses

The benefit of contraceptives like the IUD and implant are that they are low maintenance and highly effective. For example, the typical use failure rate of the IUD is 0.2% and for the implant it’s 0.05%. By comparison, the birth control pill and vaginal ring have a failure rate of 9% and condoms have a fail rate of 18%.

In 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), considered an authority on reproductive health, concluded that IUDs and implants are safe and appropriate for adolescents and teens. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agreed and said it recommends LARC for adolescents.

“Long-acting reversible contraception is safe for teens, easy to use, and very effective,” said CDC principal deputy director Ileana Arias in a statement. “We need to remove barriers and increase awareness, access, and availability of long-acting reversible contraception such as IUDs and implants.”

CDC

According to the new CDC report, there are a variety of reasons why a young person may not opt for the IUD or implant. Many teens don’t know very much about them and they often think they are too young to use them. As TIME reported in June, some physicians may remember the IUDs of past, which caused severe problems for women and were discontinued. Modern-day IUDs are safe and appropriate but there are still misperceptions about the device that persist within the medical community. Many providers are also not properly trained on insertion or removal of the IUD and implant. However, a recent report showed that among female health care providers 42% use LARC, which is much higher than both the general population of teens and adult women.

Overall, the CDC report shows that American teens are waiting to have sex, and when they are sexually active, nearly 90% report using birth control. The teen pregnancy rate in the United States appears to be steadily dropping, though in 2013 over 273,000 babies were born to girls between ages 15 and 19. The CDC says encouraging young women to consider LARC is an important strategy for further reducing teen pregnancy.

TIME Crime

14 Los Angeles High Schoolers Suspected of Sex Crimes

Police officers walk in front of Venice High School where they are investigating allegations of sexual assault in Los Angeles
Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters Police officers walk in front of Venice High School, where they are investigating allegations of sexual assaults centered on students, in Los Angeles, March 13, 2015.

About 10 have been arrested

Los Angeles police made several arrests at an area high school Friday as part of an investigation into 14 high school boys accused of sex crimes.

The crimes–involving two underage victims—allegedly began over a year ago, police say many of the incidents occurred in the last two months, with several of the accused boys present. The police have also discovered photos of the sex acts, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Authorities were made aware of the incidents on Tuesday. The boys were not identified since they are minors between the ages of 14 and 17. The police arrested nine of the boys from Venice High School on Friday morning and a 10th turned himself in. There are still four more wanted in connection to the crimes.

The crimes are sexual assault and lewd acts with a minor, the Times reports. They involve a group of high school boys allegedly working together to pressure girls into having sex with them through a variety of threats.

The events allegedly occurred both on and off campus.

TIME medicine

One Hour of Sleep Makes a Difference In What You’ll Eat

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Lynn Koenig—Getty Images/Flickr RF

When it comes to teens and sleep, it’s not how much sleep, but how consistently they sleep the same amount that’s important for their health

Plenty of studies have documented that teens don’t get enough sleep. They’re supposed to be in bed for eight to nine hours a night, but most get seven or less. Now the latest sleep research, presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting, shows when it comes to weight gain—which has been tied to sleep deprivation and disturbances—it’s not necessarily the amount of sleep that tips the scales but rather the consistency of that nightly rest.

Fan He, an epidemiologist at Penn State University College of Medicine, and his colleagues found a strong correlation between the variation in sleep patterns among a group of teens and the amount of calories they consumed. And for every hour difference in sleep on a night-to-night basis over a week, for example, they ate 210 more calories—most of it in fat and carbohydrates. Those with uneven sleep patterns were also more likely to snack.

Previous studies have linked poor or disrupted sleep to obesity; people not getting enough shut-eye, for example, may experience changes in the hormones that regulate appetite and how well they break down glucose in their diet. Levels of the hormone leptin, for instance, drop in those who are sleep deprived, and less leptin prompts the body to feel hungry.

MORE: The Power of Sleep

In the current study, however, all the teens got an average of seven hours a night, so it wasn’t as if some of the teens were sleeping for extremely long or short periods of time. Any metabolic changes they would have experienced due to their sleeping less than the recommended eight to nine hours would have been similar among the consistent and inconsistent sleepers.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center, stresses that good quality sleep involves three things — getting enough sleep, making sure the timing of the sleep if appropriate, and avoiding sleep disorders. While the amount of sleep has gotten the lion’s share of attention in recent years, a new phenomenon called social jet lag, which the current study investigates, may deserve equal consideration. “We live in a society of yo-yo sleep in which people sleep less because of social or work demands, then try to catch up,” says Watson. “There haven’t been a lot of studies that looked at what kind of impact this has on our health, but teenagers may be particularly susceptible to social jet lag than older adults, and this study assessed that.”

MORE: This Is What’s Keeping Teens From Getting Enough Sleep

These results show that it was the variability in their sleep that was most strongly linked to their eating habits.

Why? The researchers guess that teens who aren’t sleeping consistently are more likely to get too little sleep on one night, for example, and therefore be more tired or sedentary the following day, which leads them to sit around and eat more. It may also be possible that teens with irregular sleep habits are more likely to stay up later on weekends; He found that these adolescents had a 100% higher chance of snacking on weekends compared to those who slept more regularly.

MORE: School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors

That suggests that health experts should focus not just on the amount of sleep teens are getting, but on their sleep patterns. “Instead of focusing on how much we sleep, we also need to pay attention to maintaining a regular sleep pattern,” says He. Such consistency, however, may not be so easy for teens to master.

 

MONEY Shopping

Are Malls Losing Their Cool, or Still Standing Strong? An Exchange

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Brennan Linsley—AP

Mike Kercheval, president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers:

I write in response to Kerri Anne Renzulli’s January article, “Why Teens Hate Shopping at ‘Teen’ Clothing Stores,” and in particular to her contention that “Malls Are No Longer a Hangout.” In arguing this point, MONEY joins a steady stream of voices to incorrectly write-off the shopping center industry.

Renzulli accurately points out that e-commerce sales are increasing at about four times the growth rate of physical retail establishments. But a closer look at the stats shows that actual e-commerce sales still amount to just 6% of total retail sales (with the balance happening at brick-and-mortar locations) and that consumers make 78% of their purchases at shopping centers.

It is true that some major teen-oriented retailers have announced store closings recently, but teenagers remain a driving force in the retail industry—and, yes, they still visit the mall. Teens are simply shifting where their spending dollars go to. In fact, their demand for new brands and styles has generated a need for more retail space from fast-fashion brands such as Zara, H&M and Forever 21, each of which have recently announced big expansion plans—mostly in shopping malls. And when teens have been asked—as they were in this recent survey by Teen Vogue—they point convincingly to an omni-channel approach, one which still puts brick-and-mortar (or the mall) retail at the core of their purchasing habits.

Like shoppers of all ages, teens will use mobile and online to complement their shopping experience, but they still prefer to walk into a store and feel the merchandise before they buy that next pair of designer jeans. They also go to malls to enjoy the social experience. During the past holiday shopping season, Jason Wagenheim, vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue, said, “the mall remains the most important part of the overall omnichannel shopping story” for the millennial shopper, especially 16 to 26 year-olds. He pointed out that even though millennials are shopping more online and through mobile, “the brick-and-mortar experience still greatly matters.”

The bottom line is that consumers today want to choose where and when they can shop, and they are using online technologies to enhance their shopping experience, but malls and shopping centers will continue to be the number one distribution channel of goods, services, and entertainment.Retail tastes change over time, and brands will come and go, but people of every generation clearly want to shop in stores.

Kerri Anne Renzuli responds:

My article was focused not on the state of shopping centers or malls but rather on the growing disinterest of teens in teen-targeted retail brands, a point that was underscored by the ongoing management shake-up at—and disappointing earnings released today by—Abercrombie & Fitch.

That said, I stand by my contention that teens are less likely than in past decades to use the mall as a nexus of social gatherings. The numbers seem to paint a pretty clear picture: Teens are spending less of their leisure time at malls and ascribe decreasing cultural importance to them. In 2014, according to Piper Jaffray, teens visited the mall an average of 29 times a year—still a lot, as you point out, but down from 38 times in 2007.

As I note in my article, so-called “fast fashion” brands like H&M and Zara that are aimed at a broader demographic have indeed absorbed some of the teen traffic lost by Abercrombie and the like. But teens tend to see these retailers as primary destinations, much like large department stores. By contrast, many of the struggling teen brands like Wet Seal and Aeropostale have historically benefited from incidental foot traffic from teens wandering the mall with friends—which they are doing less of now. The number of stores visited per mall trip has dropped from five to three since 2007.

While teens still gather at the mall, other types of retail establishments, particularly “fast casual” eateries like Chipotle and Starbucks, are growing in popularity. And with teens choosing to spend more of their time and income in restaurants, it’s become even harder for teen brands to attract the attention and wallets of their core audience.

 

TIME Addiction

It’s Really Easy for Teens to Buy E-Cigs Online

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Most popular e-cigarette sites fail to verify the age of their clients, finds a new study

Young people under age 18 can buy e-cigarettes online, even in states where it’s illegal, a new study shows.

North Carolina researchers asked 11 teens between ages 14 to 17 who didn’t smoke to try to buy e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular Internet vendors. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina is illegal—but of the 98 orders, only five were rejected based on a failed age verification. Eighteen orders failed for problems unrelated to age, like website issues. Overall, the minors made 75 successful orders.

The teens were also asked to answer the door when deliveries were made. None of the companies attempted to confirm age at delivery, and 95% of the time, the orders were just left at the teens’ doors.

The findings are concerning for any state trying to regulate youth access, the authors say. Currently, there’s no federal law forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, despite the fact that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that e-cigarettes fall under their regular tobacco regulation jurisdiction, but the proposal is still not a codified law. “It may be several years before federal regulations are implemented,” the study authors write.

Some states have stepped in and banned the sale to minors within their borders. So far 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands forbid such transactions, or have pending legislation to do so.

But as the new study suggests, young people can easily get e-cigarettes online if they want them. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

None of the vendors complied with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age-verification law. The majority of U.S. carriers, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, ban the delivery of cigarettes, only allowing the delivery of tobacco products from a licensed dealer or distributor to another licensed dealer or distributor. If these rules were extended to e-cigarettes, the study authors argue it would essentially shut down a major loophole in access.

Getting proposed rules like the FDA’s passed takes time, but when it comes to the safety of children, the researchers argue there needs to be more urgency. Prior data has shown that from 2011 to 2013, the number of young Americans who used e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes more than tripled, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The study authors conclude that the ease with which teens can get e-cigarettes online—in a state that forbids the practice—stresses the need for more regulation, and fast.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Teen Dating Violence Harms Both Genders, Government Report Shows

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Getty Images

New data on teen dating violence reveals problems among both sexes

Findings from a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reveal that nearly 21% of female teens who date have experienced some form of violence at the hands of their partner in the last year—and almost half of male students report the same.

The survey asked about 9,900 high school students whether they had experienced some type of violence from someone they dated. The results, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed that about 7% of teen girls reported experiencing physical violence, 8% said they experienced sexual violence and 6% experienced both. Almost 21% said they were the victim of some type of dating-related violence. For boys, about 4% reported experiencing physical violence, 3% experienced sexual violence and 10% experienced any type. Though girls were more likely to experience violence, the numbers show dating assaults affect young boys as well.

The new CDC survey adds to its prior research into the prevalence of dating violence, but the latest version asked updated questions that include sexual violence and more accurately portray violent behaviors, the study authors say.

Most of the teens surveyed reported experiencing such violence more than one time. The findings also showed that those who experienced some form of dating violence also had a higher prevalence of other health risks like drinking alcohol, using drugs or thinking about suicide.

Future research should look at the frequency of violence in teen dating relationships and how that may harm teens’ health, the researchers conclude.

TIME Parenting

8 Ways to Help Cure Your Teen’s Screen Addiction

Teenagers using cellphones
Getty Images/Image Source

Tips from a former advertising insider

Parents welcome technology devices in the home as helpful tools. (Who doesn’t want a homework assistant, a boredom killer, or a virtual chaperone a pre-installed geo-tracker for their teen?) But without parameters, technology is like the obnoxious houseguest who overstays his welcome, while consuming all the snacks in the fridge. Current research reported by the National PTA suggests that the typical American kid devours more than six hours of screen time each day. But parents don’t need studies to know that.

So how do teens reform their technology habits? Author and voice actor Bill Ratner is probably the last person any parent would consult as an expert on the topic. The man made a career out of lending his voice to some of the most aggressive advertising powerhouses around. But Ratner is also a dad. And his lifetime of work in the industry make his perspective a useful one. Consider these eight guidelines based on Ratner’s recent book, Parenting for the Digital Age

  1. Give teens a voice. When they’re part of the decision making process of how and when their household uses technology, teens are more likely to take ownership of the plan. And since teens know technology so well, chances are they’ll help families make better decisions:

“They are familiar with kids who are game-addicts, textaholics, and Facebook freaks. Use the wisdom of your kids to help knit together a strategy to deal with media screens in your home,” says Ratner.

  1. Teach teens to pick up on marketing ploys. Teens who are wise to the ways marketing, advertising, and the media work, are also more keen to tricks of the industry.

“Remember that [teens] have been lured to their screens by masters of their craft, highly paid communication experts whose sole responsibility is to secure kids’ eyeballs and keep them watching day and night,” writes Ratner.

Ask your kids questions about the advertisements they see, questions like: What’s being sold? How is the selling done? Who does the advertiser want to entice? That type of conversation encourages critical thinking in place of passive viewing.
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  1. Resist the cool stuff = cool person image. Teens sometimes connect technology devices with social status. Make it clear that a person’s value isn’t related to the things they own.

Ratner says, “The challenge for parents is to find ways to affirm children’s self-esteem and their membership in their group of peers while making sure that they know the difference between self-worth and simply owning a smart phone or t-shirt. “

  1. Remember that technology use is not an all or nothing matter. Every rule is malleable. Don’t be afraid to adjust a rule that doesn’t quite fit. Each family needs to find the formula that works for them.

“You can negotiate cellphone-free hours at home, web-free spaces in the house, TV-free portions of the week,” says Ratner.

  1. Find allies in other parents. Connect with families from the neighborhood, school, and local place of worship and find out what other parents do to manage technology use in the home.

“. . . Each family must determine the principles and practices that will work for them . . . But there is so much we can learn from the opinions of others,” suggests Ratner.

  1. Don’t just limit media use. Find activities to replace it. And be creative about it. Ratner, and his family enjoy homegrown cabarets as entertainment at their family gatherings and also go to professional storytelling events:

“Confronting the obstacles for families in our digital age can either be a battle or a creative challenge. I find that with a little improvisation, creativity, and the desire to try new things like storytelling, we can lighten our load and inject fun into our lives in simple ways,” prescribes Ratner.

  1. Be O.K. with the backlash that comes with setting parental limits. This is one of those simple and timeless parenting principles. Find which rules work and stick to them. Don’t cave to slammed doors and sucked teeth:

“Psychologists say that when our children shout their demands and complaints at us, they are rehearsing to get their way in the world. Parents are the easiest and safest targets for them to practice on. Will we cover our ears, or will we take the opportunity to teach, guide, and protect?” questions Ratner.

  1. Find ways to make technology habits productive. A technology obsessed teen might be finding a passion. Channel that and put it to work. Enroll that kid in a programming, animation, or app design class.

As a mother and professor whom Ratner interviewed said, “For our family, it wasn’t about restricting access to a computer; it was about educating our kids about what a computer is for, what it’s capable of. In order to survive in the workplace, our kids were going to have to be computer literate. Why not teach them early?”

For additional ideas on managing teen technology habits, visit these online resources:

Common Sense Media — CommonSenseMedia.org
National Institute on Media and the Family —
http://www.ParentFurther.com
Media! Tech! Parenting! —
http://www.MediaTechParenting.net

TIME Research

This Is What’s Keeping Teens From Getting Enough Sleep

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STUDIO BOX—Getty Images

The biggest factor keeping teens up at night isn't technology

Up to a third of teens in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep each night, and the loss of shut-eye negatively impacts their grades, mental well-being and physical health. Biologically, adolescents need fewer hours of slumber than kids — but there’s a bigger reason for teens’ sleep loss, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

MORE: The Power of Sleep

Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, looked at survey data from more than 270,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students at 130 public and private schools across the country, gathered between 1991 and 2010. Each student was asked two questions about his or her sleep habits: how often they slept for at least seven hours a night, and how often they slept less than they should.

MORE: School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors

She found that over the 20-year study period, adolescents got less and less sleep. Part of that had to do with the fact that biologically, teens sleep less the older they get, but Keyes and her team also teased apart a period effect — meaning there were forces affecting all the students, at every age, that contributed to their sleeping fewer hours. This led to a marked drop in the average number of adolescents reporting at least seven hours of sleep nightly between 1991–1995 and 1996–2000.

That surprised Keyes, who expected to find sharper declines in sleep in more recent years with the proliferation of cell phones, tablets and social media. “I thought we would see decreases in sleep in more recent years, because so much has been written about teens being at risk with technologies that adversely affect the sleep health of this population,” she says. “But that’s not what we found.”

MORE: Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

Instead, the rises in the mid-1990s corresponded with another widespread trend affecting most teens — the growth of childhood obesity. Obesity has been tied to health disturbances including sleep changes like sleep apnea, and “the decreases in sleep particularly in the 1990s across all ages corresponds to a time period when we also saw increases in pediatric obesity across all ages,” says Keyes. Since then, the sleep patterns haven’t worsened, but they haven’t improved either, which is concerning given the impact that long-term sleep disturbances can have on overall health.

Keyes also uncovered another worrying trend. Students in lower-income families and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep regularly than white teens in higher-income households. But they also said they were getting enough sleep, revealing a failure of public-health messages to adequately inform all adolescent groups about how much sleep they need: about nine hours a night.

“When we first started looking at that data, I kept saying it had to be wrong,” says Keyes. “We were seeing completely opposite patterns. So our results show that health literacy around sleep are not only critical but that those messages are not adapted universally, especially not among higher-risk groups.”

TIME relationships

Teens Are Totally Over Valentine’s Day

Young love on social media isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to new research provided to TIME

Ah, to be young on Valentine’s Day: walking past aisles of CVS chocolates to pick up your acne medication, stalking your sister’s college roommate on Instagram to admire her cute boyfriend, glaring at the one couple in your high school who prove that teenage love isn’t a cruel rom-com fantasy. Nobody ever said adolescence was a bunch of roses, but now there’s data to prove how sad it really is.

Teenagers are the most miserable group on Valentine’s Day, according to new data compiled by social-media platform We Heart It and provided to TIME. The vast majority of 21,000 responses (over 98%) were from teenage girls, and they didn’t have a lot of love for the holiday. Only 13% of teenagers under 15 think Valentine’s Day is “painful,” while 22% say it’s “overrated,” and 24% think it’s irrelevant. Teenagers are also the least likely age group to send Valentines, with over 53% saying they’re not sending any at all (compared with 41% of respondents over 25).

Teens also have very different attitudes about social media on Valentine’s Day — and it’s giving new meaning to the phrase “love hurts.”

Young teens seem to think that social media is essential to the Valentine’s Day experience: 21% of respondents under 15 said social media was “extremely important” on Valentine’s Day, and over 64% said it was “somewhat” important. By contrast, only 10% of respondents over 25 said they thought it was “very important” to Instagram or Tweet their chocolates and flowers.

But all those vicarious Valentines aren’t making teens feel better — instead, social media make them feel worse. Only 36% said they thought social media made Valentine’s Day more fun, while 65% said social media either made them feel jealous or stressed out (34% said they got jealous, 31% said they got stressed). By contrast, 54% of respondents over 25 said they thought social media made the day more fun.

In other words: Valentine’s Day, like red wine and stinky cheese, just gets better with age.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “Even from a libertarian point of view, vaccination is a matter of rational self-interest.”

By Ben Boychuk in the Orange County Register

2. ‘Doubt everything:’ Ukrainian students are warning their Russian counterparts not to trust Putin.

By Arslan Saidov and Claire Bigg in the Guardian

3. To reach kids where they are, provide teens crisis counseling by text.

By Alice Gregory in the New Yorker

4. Is the secret to a cure for HIV lurking in dormant pools of the virus?

By Catharine Paddock in Medical News Today

5. 3D-printed ‘cool bricks’ can naturally air condition a room.

By Whitney Hipolite in 3DPrint.com

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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