The teen years are a time of rapid growth, exploration, and risk taking. Taking risks provides young people the opportunity to test their skills and abilities and discover who they are. But, some risks – such as smoking, using drugs, drinking and driving, and having unprotected sex – can have harmful and long-lasting effects on a teen’s health and well-being.
Parents are a powerful influence in the lives of their teens. When parents make a habit of knowing about their teens – what they are doing, who they are with, and where they are and setting clear expectations for behavior with regular check-ins to be sure these expectations are being met – they can reduce their teens’ risks of injury, pregnancy, and drug, alcohol and cigarette use. These parents are monitoring their teens’ activities and behaviors.
To learn more about how parents can better monitor their teens, CDC sponsored a panel of leading academic researchers in the field of parental monitoring. The findings from this expert panel led to the development of a book entitled, Parental Monitoring of Adolescents: Current Perspectives for Researchers and Practitioners. The following information reflects key findings and recommendations from this book.
What is parental monitoring?
Parental monitoring includes 1) the expectations parents have for their teen’s behavior; 2) the actions parents take to keep track of their teen; and 3) the ways parents respond when their teen breaks the rules.
You are using parental monitoring when you ask your teen:
- Where will you be?
- Whom will you be with?
- When will you be home?
You are also monitoring when you:
- Check in with your teen by phone.
- Get to know his or her friends and their parents.
- Talk with your teen about how he or she spends time or whether he or she is making safe choices.
- Set and enforce rules for your teen’s behavior by clearly explaining the rules and consequences and following through with appropriate consequences when the rules are broken.
Monitoring should start in early childhood and continue throughout the teen years, evolving as children grow and mature. As children develop into teenagers, adults might view them as more independent and less in need of monitoring. But, consistent monitoring throughout the teen years is critical – teens’ desire for independence can bring opportunities for unhealthy or unsafe behaviors.