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Survey Details Risks Teens Take

When Staples senior Morgan Singer read the results of a nationwide study of risky behaviors among young people, she was shocked. "Those are some intense statistics," Morgan, 17, said of the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a survey from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "For Connecticut as a whole, these stats are probably pretty accurate. But here, a lot of these behaviors are not common, at least not among my friends and kids that I know."

The survey, designed to reveal what teens are up to, gathers data on both the national and state levels. In Connecticut, the survey polled 2,392 high school students on various topics, including drug and alcohol use and sexual behavior.

The results found that 9.4 percent of high school students said they rarely or never wore a seat belt, 3.9 percent admitted to carrying a weapon on school property, and 59.4 percent said they used a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse.

Other results showed that 8.7 percent of students admitted to drinking and driving, 28.9 percent said they were offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property, 5.4 percent said they've used cocaine and 3.2 percent admitted to using heroin at least once.

An aspiring diplomat, Morgan said she steers clear of risky behavior because she doesn't want anything to ruin her chances for success. But just because she doesn't, she knows other teens do.

"I assume [teens] engage in these behaviors for the adrenaline rush or because they like the effects," she said. "But friends are also a factor. If you hang out in a group where doing drugs or carrying weapons is commonplace, it influences your behavior."

Pam Kelley, coordinator of state prevention programs at Positive Directions in Westport, said while friends are influential, teenage brain development is key in explaining behavior.

"Their brains aren't fully developed," Kelley said. "And because of it, they lack a lot of reasoning skills."

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