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Teens might turn to risky behaviors to cope with the coronavirus pandemic

All of the loss and social isolation during the pandemic could be leading teens down the wrong path.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's been a rough year for teenagers. Many of them missed out on spring sports, competitions, activities, prom, graduation and parties. The future is still uncertain about how this school year will go.  

All this loss and social isolation could be leading teens down the wrong path.

According to Dr. Jasmine Reese, an adolescent medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, it could have some serious consequences.

The first concern is sexting. Teens are spending a ton more time on their phones and social media alone, often in their rooms.  

"This might lead to some inappropriate conversations or the pressure to engage in those kinds of conversations or even send inappropriate photos or videos," Dr. Reese said.  

Dr. Reese says parents need to keep an eye on online activity and even set some limits.

Another concern is sexual activity.  

"Sometimes there are teens who are having friends come over or maybe one friend or a boyfriend or girlfriend or a partner and sometimes there's unsupervised time,"  

Dr. Reese said. He says parents should know who's coming to their home and know their kids' friends.  Also, talk to them about safe sex and safe relationships.

Substance abuse something else to watch for as teens look for ways to deal with stress and anxiety. 

"Sometimes teens are turning to just experimenting with alcohol or smoking or vaping.  Again, maybe doing things they wouldn't have otherwise thought of."

Dr. Reese says parents need to be having open discussions with their teens. Remind them of what they can control in the here and now. And, get them to fill up their free time with something positive and productive.  

If parents notice long periods of isolation, low moods for long periods of time, weight or sleep changes, it's time to get them to a doctor.

RELATED: Ask the doctor: The mental health impact of the pandemic on kids

RELATED: Child psychologists report depressed kids due to COVID-19 isolation

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