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By Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published December 05 2009

ND youth take risk behavior survey

The latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows increases in technology health risks, while the overall alcohol use rate has gone down among North Dakota’s K-12 students.

The survey was completed in March in 210 middle and high schools across the state.

Grand Forks Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nybladh said the results, released Friday by the state Department of Public Instruction, help provide warning signs for schools to watch.

“These surveys, I think, are useful in helping inform not only school officials and administrators, but also parents about some of the trends that we see in our schools in our communities,” he said.

It helps the district accurately target educational programs so students can make good choices. But the biggest advantage is pointing out things for parents to discuss about their child’s behaviors and risk-taking, Nybladh said.

2009 trends

The statewide survey sheds some light on how students are behaving and what areas have gotten worse since the last survey in spring 2007.

Nearly 18,000 middle and high school students in the state participated in the voluntary and anonymous survey this year.

  • The number of middle and high school students who reported never wearing a seat belt rose by 2 percent from the 2007 survey.

  • A slight decrease in alcohol use was reported by middle school students, but more of those students reported riding in a vehicle with others who had been drinking; that number went up to 36.4 percent this year, from 34.9 percent in 2007.

  • About 67 percent of high school students reported texting or using cell phones while driving, and bullying behaviors for middle and high school students continued to take alternative forms to physical fighting, such as Internet and cell phone harassment.

  • The use of inhalants and prescription medicines without a prescription increased for middle and high school students.

  • Tobacco use and cigarette purchasing before age 13 has decreased, but high school students reported an increase in tobacco use, especially chewing tobacco products.

  • Youth suicide attempts decreased slightly, but increases were reported in suicidal thoughts and plans, especially for middle school through grade 10 for both genders.

    Ryan Johnson is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.