When most people think of “troubled teens,” a stereotype may come to mind. Many may automatically visualize urban youth roaming the city streets and causing trouble or privileged upper-middle class suburban teens embracing emo fashion and swapping ADHD prescription medications.
However, growing up in a rural environment comes with its own risks, and teens who live in the country can be just as likely to be troubled as their city-dwelling counterparts.
If their time is not carefully structured, teens in rural communities may find fewer ways to fill their free time. There is often less access to after-school job opportunities, entertainment and organized activities than in suburban or urban areas – which for many teens means more unsupervised hours to get into trouble.
For example, city-dwelling teenagers are actually significantly less likely than their rural counterparts to use prescription drugs such as painkillers and tranquilizers for non-medical reasons.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky surveyed 17,872 teens ages 12 to 17 and found that 10 percent of city teens said they had experimented with prescription drugs they didn’t need, while 13 percent of rural kids reported doing the same — overall, a 26 percent increase in risk in rural areas. Rural teens are also much more likely to use cigarettes, chewing tobacco, crack/cocaine and steroids than both suburban and urban teens. Crystal meth use – and even production – is also a high risk among rural teens.
But rural teens face threats beyond a higher incidence of drug abuse. Teens who live in the country are also equally or more likely than suburban and urban teens to be exposed to violent activities, including weapons carrying, fighting, fear of violence and suicide behaviors.
However, there are many benefits to raising teens in a rural area. They are generally tight-knit communities with friendly neighbors, providing the potential for a network of parents working together. To help build these opportunities, invite neighbors over frequently, and connect with other families in your community who share your values and parenting priorities.
In addition, try to direct your teen toward healthier activities – don’t leave her to her own devices! Take advantage of the natural resources, and explore rivers and forests, or spend time each week in public parks or hiking local trails. Encourage outdoor activities such as running or biking, and set an expectation for your teen to assist with outdoor chores such as raking leaves, gardening or mowing. Or, if possible, look for organized activities available in the community. Youth groups such as 4-H or FFA ( formerly Future Farmers of America) are highly active in rural areas and provide many positive activities for teens. In addition, your church and your child’s school are also good resources for extracurricular activities and events.
To learn more about how Compass Rose Academy can help your family, visitwww.compassroseacademy.org.