Men’s Health

Promoting Safe Choices Among Black Boys

Written by Ifeanyi Paschal

People say that life is full of risks, but the biggest risk in life is not taking risks at all. Much as that sounds logical, risks mean different things to different people. Just so I don’t jump the gun, I will define risk-taking behaviors first. In this context, risk-taking behaviors are acts or activities that increase the likelihoods of diseases, injuries, disabilities, deaths, or social problems. These could be illegal substance use, alcoholism, smoking, unsafe sexual intercourse, dangerous driving, street-fighting, and other forms of violence. In the Black community, young males between 15 and 25 often get involved in these obnoxious activities. Interestingly, they don’t see any dangers in them because they see risk-taking differently. Furthermore, they pick up such behaviors to impress their friends and people, prove overconfidence and masculinity, or feel a sense of belonging to a group or peer.

Sometimes, parents egg their boys on or ignore them because they consider such risk-taking behaviors as normal boyhood behavior. Think about it: most sports require their players to be energetic and strong because sports zap the body’s energy. From basketball to football, soccer to boxing, the most successful players in these games exhibit physical strengths on courts and pitches. Given how iconic, charismatic, and successful sportsmen are, parents tend to admire them and encourage their boys to emulate them. As a result, young Black males get involved in risk-taking to prove that they have what it takes to be like sportspeople and prove themselves as full-fledged men or mature. In the long run, those behaviors come with heavy consequences. As a Black parent, this guide expresses the dangers of letting your son learn and live with those risk-taking behaviors and how to prevent that.

Prevalence and Dangers of Risk-taking Among Black Kids

Taking risks has certain social patterns. For instance, if your boy is a known risk-taker, the chances are that he will make friends with people who expose him to social ills, including alcoholism, drug use, unsafe sex, etc. Because Black parents sometimes push their children to take high risks, those social ills have become rampant among Black teenagers. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11% of Black high school students reported that they used illegal drugs at some point in their lives. On the flip side, it was slightly lower for the White high school students. Plus, 2% of Black high school students injected illegal drugs compared to 1% of their White counterparts. 15% of Black high school students said they have had four or more sexual partners, compared to 8.6% among their White counterparts. Of the number, 50% of these kids had unprotected sex.

As for the long-term effects of risk-taking behaviors, these depend on the actual behavior your son finds solace in. Smoking and substance abuse, for instance, lead to cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, stroke, etc. Then, alcoholism causes high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems, liver disease, and stroke. Fighting and dangerous driving culminate in severe injuries and in the worst-case scenario, death. Lastly, unprotected sex among teenagers exposes them to sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, and genital herpes) and taking responsibility for an unintended pregnancy. Now you know the dangers staring your son in the face, but I will let you in on seven preventive tips.

7 Effective Tips for Promoting Safe Choices Among Black Boys

As a Black parent who wants his/her son to have the best and healthiest experiences in life, apply these useful tips:

  1. Explain the consequence of choices: First, explain to your son that his decisions and choices have consequences. For instance, a habitual smoker risks suffering from lots of ailments as they age, thereby diminishing their odds of living a healthy life and having a successful career in the future.
  2. Be a friend: As you know, nobody can question your place in your son’s life. However, you can do more! First, be approachable. Be that dad or mom he is comfortable sharing his secrets with because you two share a strong bond. Spend quality time with him, and keep close tabs on him. Talk about everything, including his school friends, classes, extra-curricular activities, relationships, etc. Never be an observer in your son’s life; make him your priority.  
  3. Teach him how to manage peer pressure: Obviously, you have been there and done that, so teach your son the mind-blowing tricks you used to manage and overcome peer pressure. Let me be clear, peer pressure is inevitable if you don’t homeschool your son. You can use humor to get your son to open up about his peer challenges and proffer solutions to them. Some clues for overcoming peer pressure include encouraging him to choose the right friends, changing the subject, making excuses, and avoiding or cutting off some friends.
  4. Teach him the right values and life goals: Remember, an unexamined life isn’t worth living. So, teach your son good virtues and life goals. Agree on specific rules that nobody in the family should be seen breaking. Help your son grasp the long-term outcomes of sticking to them. Use examples of successful people (where applicable). Once your son understands these values and goals, your job is somewhat done!
  5. Be a role model: The fact of the matter is, most boys grow up idolizing their fathers. So, be a good role model. Mind you, you cannot give what you don’t have. Therefore, live an emulative lifestyle, and use yourself as an example. Don’t just dish out rules, but you must be seen doing what you preach. Also, if your son doesn’t have a father, perhaps an uncle or church mentor should be his go-to guide or father figure.
  6. Reward him: Did your son ace his exams? If so, praise and reward him for doing well. Find out the things he likes and buy him those things. Promise him to get more if he maintains that great performance. For maintaining the values and goals you two agreed to, reward him for being a good son. Sometimes, what drives people to do the right or wrong things is the benefit. Conversely, if he didn’t do well, find out why he didn’t and help him to do better.  
  7. Repurpose his energy: Make no mistake, boys need to take reasonable risks to learn more about themselves and their abilities. However, you must guide your son and channel his energy into safe and constructive activities. For example, sign him up for sports like martial arts, canoeing, biking, etc. If you want to see your son bag a big NFL/NBA contract, enroll him in a basketball or football team at an early age to become better at the game as he grows. While enrolling your boy in the right sports, be mindful of the inherent risks. In short, the CDC disclosed that 1.7 to 3.8 million cases of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are reported each year in the United States. The report linked 21% of the total TBI cases to sports and recreational activities among American children. Therefore, always consider your son’s safety and do your bit to protect him from harms by providing him with the appropriate PPE kit. For instance, ensure your son wears a mouthguard while boxing; have him wear facemask, throat guard, and helmet when playing baseball; get him pads and helmet for playing football, etc. Indeed, physical games expose your son to all manner of risks, so ensure that he complies with the safety protocols while participating in them.

Raising boys in a world where risk-taking behaviors have become a norm can be a lot of hard work. However, good things, they say, don’t come easy. So, like a goal-oriented hurdler, you must keep your eyes on the prize while you put in the work. The cheering news is, the helpful tips I shared in this guide will help you repurpose your son’s life, shape him into his best version, and avert the dangers of seeing him slide into harmful behaviors. Therefore, start trying them out now!

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About the author

Ifeanyi Paschal

Ifeanyi Paschal is an experienced researcher and versatile writer. With nearly a decade of experience in the writing industry, Paschal has coordinated and participated in several research studies and written for companies in a wide spectrum of industries, including health and wellness, tech, HRM, and business development.

As a writer with Elevate Black Health, Paschal goes the extra mile to do extensive research and craft health and wellness articles that help the global Black community deepen its understanding of relevant health challenges, find effective solutions to them, and maximize healthy living.

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