Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Bullying and Sexual Harassment

The Herkimer County Teen Assessment Project(TAP) has asked several questions over the years about bullying. Generally speaking bully has been loosely conceived in the TAP survey as when a person feels constantly teased, threatened or harassed by another person or group of people. This can happen in face-to-face situations as well as through online/electronic means. 

Since first asking the question "Do you feel constantly teased, threatened or harassed by other youth?" in 2001, there does appear to have been a significant decline in the percentage of teens saying they they have felt bullied. Between 2001 and 2005, the percentage of teens answering "yes" to this question actually rose from 18% to 20%. Since then, there has been a significant decline, with only 14% of teens in 2013 saying that they have ever felt bullied. 
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One of the biggest concerns expressed by experts in the field has been the proliferation of electronic means of bullying. Given teens' internet and electronic footprint (see this post about TAP data concerning teens use of the internet and cell phones) has grown so much over the last several years, a question was incorporated into the last two TAP surveys about electronic bullying. In 2013, about one out of every seven teens (15%) said that they had been electronically bullied through emails, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting. This is down from 23% in 2009. Teens that had ever shared nude or seminude pictures of themselves were two and a half times more likely to have said that they had been electronically bullied. 

Sometimes this bullying may take the form of sexual harassment. Fewer teens among the 2013 respondents were subject to sexual harassment and unwanted sexual contact than in the past. While almost a third (32%) reported being sexually harassed in 2005, the percentage in 2013 dropped to 18%.

Unfortunately that sexual harassment sometimes has translated into sexual assault. While it has declined over the years, it is still a disturbingly high percentage of teens that have been subjected to such physical contact. While nearly one out of every five teens (18%) in 2005 reported they had been subject to some form of unwanted physical/sexual contact, such as kissing, touching or forced intercourse, in 2013, this percentage had dropped to about 13% of teens reporting similar unwanted sexual contact.

Based on the 2013 TAP Survey, about one out of every six girls (17%) were sexually harassed.  This is statistically significantly better than in 2009 when 22% of all girls responded that they had been sexually harassed. Unfortunately, the survey still found that one out of every 35 female respondents (2.8%) indicated they had been raped (i.e. had unwanted sexual intercourse). This is identical to the 2009 data.

Approximately one in 14 teens (7%) reported being subject to boyfriend/girlfriend physical abuse. While not statistically significant, it is worth noting that males more often reported being hit or physically abused by girlfriends than vice versa - 8% of males versus 5.8% of females reported this.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State Penalties for Texting and Driving: $0 to $10,000

An article at Mother Jones points out how wildly fluctuating the states deal with texting and driving. As they point out, the good news: fatal car crashes are on the decline. The bad news: fatal car crashes involving cell phone use—anything from texting to talking to reaching for a ringing phone—are on the rise. In fact, the leading cause of death for teenage drivers is now texting, not drinking, with nearly a dozen teens dying each day in a texting-related car crash. Stark figures like this have driven 46 states to pass legislation banning texting and driving. But texting fines vary wildly across the country, and you'll end up paying a little or a lot depending on where you got caught.

In California, the maximum penalty for a first-time offender is just $20, the lowest in the country, while Alaska will slap you with a whopping $10,000 fine and a year in prison. Meanwhile, some states don't allow cops to pull drivers over for texting, but can impose a texting fine on top of another penalty, like speeding. Confused yet? Keep your eyes on the road: Mother Jones has rounded up maximum first-offense fines for fully licensed drivers in each state (click here to see the full table), along with a few more sobering stats on using your phone while behind the wheel. Remember: local laws may apply even if there's no statewide ban where you're driving, but to be safe—literally—just don't text and drive.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Teen Perceptions of Self and Weight

While the section of the Teen Assessment Project (TAP) report on teens and their well being covers a wide range of topics (body perception, depression, suicide ideation, etc.) this post is focused on their view view of their own bodies - namely in terms of weight and need for weight gain or loss. Why might this be important? Well according to this article citing the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, how teens perceive themselves when they look into the mirror can be a more significant factor in their risk of suicide than the number on the bathroom scale. The study found adolescents' personal perceptions of being too thin or too fat was associated with heightened risks for suicidal thoughts and attempts. So how did the youth participating int he 2013 Herkimer County TAP view themselves?

To begin with, nearly 30% of all teens saw themselves as overweight, up slightly from when this question was asked in 2009. And one in twenty (5%) said that they were "very overweight". While the majority of teens in 2013 still see their weight as “about right” (56%), this is lower than in 2009 when 60% said that they were about the right weight. 

Not surprisingly, females were a third more likely to see themselves as overweight than males. While one in four males (25%) thought of themselves as overweight, one in three (33%) of females said that they weighed more than they should.
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Interestingly, while more than half of all teens (56%) said that their weight was about right, a majority of respondents (50.4%) indicated that they were presently trying to lose weight. For girls this was nearly 2 out of every 3 (64%) ! So despite the fact that only three in ten teens said they were overweight, five in ten are trying to lose weight!

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So who are these teens that are trying to lose weight ? Well if we look at each of those that were overweight, versus those that say their weight is about right, versus those that are underweight, all three groups have components that are looking to lose weight. For example, among teens that they that their weight is "about right", despite this balanced view of their bodies, as many as 40% report that they are still trying to lose weight. Teens that said they were overweight, in comparison, were twice as likely to be trying to lose weight. Eighty-five percent of teens that see themselves as overweight are trying to reduce their weight. Even among the least likely group - underweight teens - as many as one in five (20%) said that they were dieting or doing something in an effort to lose weight. 

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And in each case, if you compare males and females in each grouping, girls are significantly more likely to be dieting, or trying to lose weight, than are males.

To see the complete 2013 TAP report (or any of the previous reports as well), visit the Planning Department's Human Service page.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Technology and the Internet

With tremendous growth of cell phones and technology devices such as tablets, personal communications  and interactions have changed dramatically in recent decades. The Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey has focused for several years on establish some baseline data concerning the use of email, social networking, cell phones, and what has become known as "sexting" - the sharing of nude or semi-nude personal pictures across electronic communications, particularly among cell phone users.

Most teens have a web presence, including personal email and profile page. As many as 85% of all teens reported that they have a personal email address that is exclusively theirs. This is significantly more than in 2009 when about 79% said they had personal email. In addition, nearly 80% said they specifically have a personal profile page on Facebook, with one in twenty teens (5%) having multiple Facebook profiles. Twitter accounts are fairly well established among teens as well. Slightly under half (46%) indicated that they had Twitter accounts.

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Cell phones have become a prolific form of communication in our society. nearly 90% of all teens said that they have a cell phone.  Virtually all teens (93%) who have access to a cell phone use text messaging. Nearly 40% of all teens who have a cell phone send more than 100 texts a day, and more than a quarter (27%) send at least 150 texts every day.

In terms of sharing personal information, significantly fewer teens (13%) said that they had given personal information to a stranger online in the 2013 TAP Survey than four years earlier (17%). Similarly fewer indicated that they had actually been asked to meet with a stranger as well (10% in 2013 versus 13% in 2009). Still, both in 2009 and 2013, as many as 10% said that they had actually met a stranger, which was defined as someone who they did not personally know and with whom they had no common friends. 

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Nearly 45% of all teens have been involved in some form of “sexting,” meaning they had sent, received or shared nude or seminude pictures of themselves or others. While this is significantly less than in 2009 (52%), it still represents nearly half of all teens.

About one out of every five teens (22%) said they had shared a nude or seminude picture of themselves via an email, cell phone or through instant messaging. One in three teens (34%) said they had received a nude or seminude picture that someone else sent of themselves through email, their cell phone or instant messaging.  Slightly more than 20% of all teens said someone else, who had received a nude or seminude picture, had shared it with them. 

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About 6% of all 7th graders reported they had electronically sent a nude or semi-nude picture of themselves.  This is significantly less than in the 2009 when one in ten 7th graders (10%) indicated doing this. Also, fewer 9th graders indicated they sent pictures of themselves in 2013 than in 2009 data (2013 - 20%; 2009 - 30%). The percentage of 11th graders sharing such pictures of themselves remained essentially the same (approximately 40%).
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Among 7th graders, 14% said that others had sent them nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves; this is down from 22% in 2009. Also, a smaller proportion of 9th grade respondents reported ever receiving such pictures (2013 - 33%; 2009 - 45%).  Among 11th graders, the percent reportedly receiving nude or semi-nude pictures remained unchanged at about 55%.

To see the complete 2013 TAP report (or any of the previous reports as well), visit the Planning Department's Human Service page.

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Tobacco Use Among Teens

Tobacco use by teens in Herkimer County has seen considerable declined as measured by the Herkimer County Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey. These declines parallel national changes, and show a significant drop in the percentage of teens that have ever smoked..

In the first Herkimer County TAP survey, which was done in 1997, half of all teens (50%) said that they had ever smoked a whole cigarette. This has declined precipitously since then. By 2005 less than a third (32%) of all teens said that they had ever smoked, and in 2013 only one in six (18%) indicated that they had ever used tobacco. This decline is evident across all grade levels, suggesting that the change in behavior is widespread. The drop between 1997 and 2013 is very similar for eleventh, ninth and seventh graders - from 67% to 32% among eleventh graders; from 53% to 19% of ninth graders; and from 31% to 5% of all seventh grade students.

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Frequency of the use of tobacco however, has not changed much among those that smoke. While it is true that between 1997 and 2001 (or between the first and second times the survey was conducted) the percentage of Herkimer County youth that said that they smoked "regularly" (i.e. 10 or more days per month) declined significantly, there has been no statistical change in smoking patterns since that time. Between 1997 and 2001, the percentage of teens that smoked "regularly" fell from 40% of teen smokers to 34%. This was a statistically significant drop in the frequency of tobacco use among youth that smoke. Since 2001 however, there has been no statistical change among the percentage of "regular" users of tobacco. In 2013, the percent of teen smokers is around 31%, statistically the same as it was twelve years earlier in 2001. So while fewer teens are smoking, those that do smoking are using tobacco at a similar use level as they have in the past.

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While we have seen a drop in the percentage of teens that have ever smoked, there is one category of tobacco use that has not seen a decline in use - chewing tobacco. The use of chewing tobacco is largely a male phenomena that has held fairly steady since it was first measured among Herkimer County teens back in the 1997 TAP survey. From 1997 to 2013 about one in eight (12%) of all males have indicated that they had ever used chewing tobacco. This has been very consistent, except for 2009 when as many as 16% of males reported ever having used this tobacco product.

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To see the complete 2013 TAP report (or any of the previous reports as well), visit the Planning Department's Human Service page.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Alcohol Use Among Teens

One of the basic areas we have covered in every Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey has been alcohol use by teens. We begin by asking teens at what age did they first have more than a "few sips" of alcohol. They have the option, of course, to say that they have never had  a drink of alcohol other than possibly a few sips.

What we have found is that the percent of teens who ever have had a drink of alcohol has declined significantly over the years, especially since 2005.

Since 2005, the percent of teens who said that they have ever had a drink has dropped from 56% to around 34% - from more than half of all teens to just one third ! Clearly fewer teens are drinking while in high school than they were 15 years ago.

We also looked at the frequency of drinking among teens that do use alcohol. It's one thing to see fewer teens drinking, but the question of how often those that do imbibe use alcohol is also a concern. We examined only those teens that said that they have ever had a drink and asked them how often they have at least one drink. In particular we were interested in looking at what we loosely defined as "regular users" of alcohol. These were seen as anyone who said that they drank at least "a few times a month" or more often. Just as in the case of the percent of all teens that have ever had a drink, the percent of teen drinkers that are "regular users" of alcohol has declined significantly since 1997.

From the 52% of teen drinkers saying that they used alcohol at least a few times per month in 1997, to the 35% of teenage drinkers in 2013 saying that they use alcohol "regularly", this number has dropped considerably.

So it appears as though fewer teens are drinking, and those that do drink are drinking less often. That left us wondering about the age of introduction to alcohol among teen drinkers. When we look at the percent of teens drinkers that say that their first drink of alcohol was at age 12 or younger, we find that this, not surprisingly, has also seen significant decline over the years, and especially since 2005.

While nearly half of all teen drinkers (49%) said that they had had their first drink at age 12 or younger in 1997, that percentage had fallen off slightly to around 44% in 2005. Since then, however, the percent of teen drinkers who indicated that they had an early introduction to alcohol has dipped to only 30%. So not only are fewer teens drinking than in prior years, but those that are choosing to drink are waiting longer to have their first drink, and are drinking less frequently than in the past.

Finally, teenage binge drinking is an area of great concern among parents, community members and law enforcement. Binge drinking is generally considered to have occurred when someone has five (5) or more drinks within a two to three hour period. Generally speaking the percent of teen drinkers engaging in binge drinking has steadily declined since the Herkimer County TAP survey was first administered in 1997. From a high of 46% of drinkers saying that they had gone binge drinking in the last 30 days in 1997, to a low of 28% of teen drinkers who say that they had been binge drinking in the past 30 days in the 2013 survey, this percentage has dropped significantly.

If we look at binge drinking habits among males and females, you can see that in both cases their has been a steady decline in this type of activity regardless of gender. The only unusual piece of data is that females appear to not have changed their binge drinking behavior since the last survey was completed in 2009 - 25% of all female teen drinkers said that they had gone binge drinking in the last 30 days in both the 2009 and 2013 surveys.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Appendix A: Comparison of Herkimer County TAP Data (1997-2013)

Probably the most valuable part of the TAP survey report is Appendix A - it is a compendium of tables showing data from each of the older Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey results along with the most recent one.

At present the report includes survey results from 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 and now 2013. It also includes data break outs for male and females, as well as for students by grade (seventh, ninth and eleventh graders).

To see ONLY Appendix A, click on this link and see how the data has changed in the 16 years since the survey was first done in Herkimer County. To see the entire report, including the descriptive chapters, visit the Human Service Planning section of the Regional Planning Office website.

The 2013 Herkimer County TAP Survey Results Now Available !

The 2013 version of the Herkimer County Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey report is now available ! This represents the fifth time the survey has been conducted in Herkimer County, the first time being in 1997. The survey is done on a four year cycle, so data now exists for teens in the county for the years 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013. In total, more than ten thousand surveys have been collected over the sixteen years, representing about 80% of the target population each time the survey was administered.

The 2013 survey is generally broken into ten topical areas including: tobacco; alcohol; marijuana and other drugs; sexuality; mental health; perceptions of school and future; parent/child relationships; perceptions of self, peers and community; personal safety; and the internet and technology. The appendices includes a comparative table with data for all of the past surveys as well as the present survey. In addition, the present survey is broken out by gender and grade.

Portions of the survey will be discussed in future blog posts including material not in the current report. For now, you might want to download a copy of the 2013 report or go to the Planning Department website to view any of the previous reports. If you have questions about the materials you can contact me via email  or email Chip Bassett in our office.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Federal Government Shutdown Impacts Access to Census Data

Just as a matter of information, accessing federal government Census websites is not possible during the government shutdown. I do have data available for SOME areas and topics, but detailed requests may not be processed at this time. Just an FYI...

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Health Metrics on the County Level

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has made an interactive map available that allows viewers to explore health trends in the United States down to the county level. Included in these trends are data on life expectancy (for your selected geography during the span 1985 to 2010), hypertension (2001 to 2009), obesity (2001 to 2011) and physical activity (2001 to 2011).

The first step to accessing this information is to decide which of those metrics you'd like to see mapped and deciding if you'd like to see it for males or females...

Next, you can type in the name of the county you'd like to get the data for...

This will bring up a map which, if you hover above the county you are interested in, shows a pop-up box with data from the FIRST year of the the case of life expectancy, for example, the data is preset to 1985 information...

Across the bottom of the map is a sliding timeline you can use to set the year to that which interests you, or if you'd like to see how the data has changed over time, you can click the "play" button at the end of the timeline to see a transitional view of the trends over time...

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was launched with the goal of providing an unbiased, evidence-based picture of global health trends and determinants to inform the work of a broad range of organizations, policymakers, researchers, and funders.