Chibuike “Chibby” Uwakwe is an award-winning teen pianist. He loves classical music, but is also a fan of jazz. However, winning the Omega Psi Phi Piano Award is just one of his many accomplishments. Chibby—a first-generation American born to parents who came to the U.S. from Nigeria—was also part of the International Baccalaureate program and track team for his high school. After applying to 12 prestigious universities, the 18-year-old found himself getting acceptance letters from all of them, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. Although he is passionate about his music, Chibby has decided to attend Harvard and pursue becoming a surgeon. He says, “Surgery and piano are similar in that you have to use your fingers intricately when you’re doing surgery, right? So, that’s why I’m leaning towards that.” His hope is that his unique abilities as a pianist will help him become a skilled surgeon so he can help people through their medical difficulties.
When tragedy strikes, the media is an immediate source of information. You may recently have heard about Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old student who died rushing a shooter at his Colorado high school. His actions, along with other students, allowed many to find safety and for the shooter to be apprehended. Learning about Castillo’s heroism can help people feel connected to those who experienced the tragedy and lead to an increase in empathy, community awareness, and involvement. However, it’s important to remember that repeated exposure to reports of tragedy can be a source of stress and anxiety. It’s okay to take care of your own mental health and take a break from the news whenever it feels like too much. You may also want to talk to an adult you trust, such as a parent, teacher, or school counselor.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. schools have significantly increased security measures for emergencies over the last 20 years. At the same time, the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools at John Hopkins University is using research and education on a range of issues—youth suicide, trauma, and bullying—to broaden the conversation about fostering safe and healthy climates. Both organizations say that the narrative on school violence needs to change. Despite the heightened attention in the media, statistics show that about the safest place you can be on any given day in the U.S. is in a school.
A study published in 2019 may be the first to offer estimates for the deaths of teenagers due to dating violence in the United States. The study found that out of the more than 2,000 adolescents that died between 2003 and 2016, almost seven percent were killed by their former or current partners. Around 90 percent of the victims were female, with an average age of around 17. In most of the cases, their partner was 18 years old or older.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages teens to talk about healthy relationships with their doctors. Teens should also go to “safe adults” in their life when they need help with a stressful experience. These adults—parents, teachers, counselors, doctors—provide support and a physical stress buffer from negative situations. There are also programs that teach how to avoid partner abuse that can be found through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to introduce legislation that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products in the U.S. from 18 to 21. The proposed bill would cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices. According to McConnell, teen vaping is “the serious threat” his legislation will try to combat.
McConnell made this announcement at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky in Louisville. He was joined by the CEO of the foundation, former Congressman Ben Chandler. Chandler explained that raising the minimum purchase age is an effective way to reduce smoking rates. The bill even has support from the tobacco industry, including Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies which includes the vaping company Juul. Altria’s Vice President said that putting tobacco on a par with alcohol “makes sense” and could persuade lawmakers to “approach tobacco regulation a bit more reasonably.”
Caroline Marks, a 17-year-old surfer from Florida, made history on April 8 in Queensland, Australia. Marks won $100,000 for taking first place at the 2019 Mobile Pro Gold Coast surfing finals, beating some of the world’s best female surfers. The contest was the first big event of the year and was staged in conjunction with the men’s Quiksilver Pro competition.
It’s not just the money that made it such a momentous occasion for Marks. This was the first win after the World Surf League had promised to award equal prizes for men and women competing on the elite level. The decision by the league this past September makes pro surfing one of the few professional sports that has implemented such gender equality.
For Marks, it was a great time to debut on the winner’s podium. “I’m really emotional right now,” Marks said in an interview with the World Surf League. “I can’t believe it. I’m speechless. It’s incredible to be a part of this sport. I just want to thank everyone at WSL— I’m so grateful. It’s so amazing to be a part of women’s surfing.”
A group of senior girls in Maryland recently discovered that their male classmates were circulating a list that rated them on their looks. Some of the girls felt shocked and disgusted, while others felt betrayed or disrespected. “I think of these people as friends, and I think of them as peers,” said eighteen-year-old Virginia Brown. “…they don’t see me as a friend, they don’t really respect me for my worth, all they see me for is my physical attractiveness.”
When the student who created the list was punished with just one day in detention, the girls went to the assistant principal’s office and demanded change. As a result, they had a two-and-a half hour meeting with about 80 students where the girls confronted their classmates and talked about their experiences with harassment, objectification, and sexual abuse, both in and out of school. Some students have now formed a group that meets every week to talk about how to prevent similar situations from occurring.
Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to combat climate change. Thunberg’s activism began when she was 15 and sat outside Sweden’s Parliament during elections asking for action on climate change from the government. Her actions helped her gain a large following on social media and her movement spread to other countries across Europe and around the world. Last week, thousands of students took part in a Global Climate Strike in solidarity with Thunberg’s fight for a better future for the planet.
Two Norwegian lawmakers nominated Thunberg for the prize stating that, “… the massive movement Greta has set in motion is a very important peace contribution.” The winner of the prize will be announced in October. If Thunberg wins, she would become the youngest recipient since Malala Yousafzai to receive the award. Thunberg shared her thoughts from when she began her movement: “I thought if no one does anything, I’ll have to do something. When I grow older I want to look back and say I did what I could back then.”
Have you ever used Google Docs for a school assignment? The web-based word processor is a popular tool for shared projects. The ability to interact in real-time with collaborators on a project can be very useful. However, some teens have found a new use for Google Docs. When they don’t have access to other methods of online communication or social media, they open up a document and invite their friends to be collaborators. Now they have a private space to draw, chat, share links, upload photos and more. After using the document to chat, they can delete it, empty their trash folder, and not leave a record of it.
While most teens are using Google Docs as a fun communication tool with friends, some are also using the word processor for bullying. According to research by the parental control app Bark, there have been more than 60,000 cases of kids ganging up on others or participating in cyberbullying through Google Docs. Some teens are writing hurtful things then sharing them through Google Docs, creating inappropriate lists about students, or sharing ideas to tease or make fun of another person. It is important to think carefully about what you are sharing online in any medium. Just because a Google Doc can be trashed, it doesn’t mean someone didn’t save a screenshot of it. Tell an adult if you suspect cyberbullying or harassment and don’t accept an invitation from anyone you don’t know. Many schools have strict rules against cyberbullying and in many places those using an online platform to cause harm or harassment are breaking the law.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently urged the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Pinterest to filter medical misinformation from their platforms. It is already difficult for many to tell the difference between factual sources and unverified information or propaganda online, which can have real-life implications. The AAP is concerned that parents may be making medical choices for their children based on conversations and statements made by social media groups, rather than credible sources like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are not the only ones concerned about the amount of misinformation spread online.
Ethan Lindenberger, a teen from Ohio, recently spoke before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions about this concern. He discussed how his parents based medical choices for him on the information they learned through social media groups. He is concerned that fear may be used as a driving force for the quick spread of false information. While the AAP is confronting the social media platforms, he is telling lawmakers that it is important to teach people about how to find good information. Lindenberger explained to the Senate subcommittee panel, “Approaching this issue with the concern of education and addressing misinformation properly can cause change, as it did for me.”
Serious mental stress has become a fact of life for many U.S. teens. According to a recently released Pew Research Center survey on teens ages 13 to 17, one of the largest problems facing teens is anxiety and depression. Currently, seven out of ten teens say anxiety and depression are a major problem with their peers. Data on anxiety disorders shows that 7 percent of teens reported some sort of mental episode or condition in 2016–2017. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that serious depression has been on the rise among teens for the past several years. Almost 13 percent of teens had experienced a major depressive episode in 2016. Fewer than half of teens with major depression said they’d been treated for it in the past year.
Triston Bailey, an 18-year-old from Texas, is speaking out after a selfie attempt almost ended his life. Bailey and his friends thought it would be fun to snap a selfie at a well-known bridge in the area. Distracted while trying to take the perfect shot, Bailey accidentally fell over the edge dropping 50 feet (15 meters).
Bailey was lucky. He was able to recover from multiple injuries, but he now knows and wants other teens to know how taking selfies can be dangerous. According to a recent study, at least 250 people worldwide have died taking selfies during the past six years. More than 70 percent of those deaths were males with an average age of 23. Doctors, along with Bailey, hope that by sharing his story they can prevent others from making a similar, dangerous decision.
Braden Milford, a high school senior from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was recently selected as a Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader. Milford, who created a water purification system for a school project, is now receiving global recognition and interest after creating and using a simulated stream to show how it would work. Milford explains, “My project associates environmentally extracted bacteria with algae in a jelly-like system that you can then deploy into a stream and it will intake water toxins.”
Milford will travel to New York in March, where he’ll pair up with a distinguished mentor in the science field to help his project grow. He is also in the running for one of the top science competitions in the nation, called Regeneron Science Talent Search. If he makes the top 40, he’ll take in 25 thousand dollars. If he is the overall winner, he’ll receive 250 thousand dollars towards his project. No matter what, Milford plans to continue working on ways to develop his water purification system. He says, “Seeing what will make an impact on the world really drives me forward.”
In January 2019, 24-year-old William Brown died after his vape pen exploded, injuring his face and neck. His is the second recent death from an exploding e-cigarette among thousands of injuries and burns. According to a study published by Tobacco Control, there were more than 2,000 vape pen explosion and burn injuries in the United States from 2015 to 2017.
The U.S. Fire Administration blames the injuries and fires on the prevalence of lithium-ion batteries that are found in e-cigarettes. According to their report, “It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen.”