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Teen Views on Healthy Living

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Healthy living is one of the three strategic research initiatives for National 4-H, along with positive youth development and science innovations. A recent collaboration between the National 4-H Council and Molina Healthcare facilitated a project to determine teens concerns around healthy living and what is relevant to them today.

The following is from National 4-H and Molina Healthcare:

Over a 15-month period, nearly 1,000 U.S. teens engaged their peers to discuss their health needs, concerns and priorities. Teens responded to a social media survey, submitted videos and participated in town halls. The Teens Take on Health report was published in April 2014.

What did youth say? They see health as holistic mind, body and soul. They care just as much about emotional and mental health as physical health. They are concerned they're not getting enough sleep, and need help with stress. The end result concluded with a call to action by the teens involved.

As proposed during the Teens Take on Health Action Summit in April 2014.

    1. Keep it on the regular. Try to stick to a routine for bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
    2. Manage your tech use. Avoid cell phone, tablet, computer and TV use within the hour before bed time.
    3. Exercise regularly. Even light exercise is better than no activity and can help with sleep.
    4. Know your limits. What do you like most? Prioritize your extracurricular school and social activities to avoid over-committing.
    5. Seek school policy solutions. Do you think it would help to have a later school start time? What about having time management classes added to the curriculum? Consider school policy solutions that you can advocate for locally.

Have A Conversation With Your Teen
These five proposed actions range from short to long term impacts around healthy living for teens. From the simple step of setting their alarm on the weekend to advocating their school's policy, this study is a resounding message that teens are aware of the importance for healthy living. It should be a topic of discussion on all levels.

If your family has a teen-in-residence how does your family address these concerns? Our family has found the management of technology the most difficult. Between web backpacks for studying purposes to sending out a tweet, technology is a double edged sword, at times. The educational value of the multitude of resources is wonderful. But the temptation for the teen to default to the social aspects of technology is a challenge. One technique our family put in place was a rule that no technology is allowed in the bedroom during sleep time. It becomes too inviting just to check to see the latest snap that comes in, instead of focusing on much needed sleep to prepare for the demands of high school life.

There needs to be a balance with all aspect of the teen's daily life. The concept of knowing their limits is a life skill even adults struggle with. 4-H youth development programs focus on life skills and we strive to incorporate teen voice and their leadership throughout.