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IS ADVICE TO TEENS FALLING ON DEAF EARS?

Ask any parent - it's not easy, and often downright impossible, to change a teenager's bad habits.

And apparently the millions of dollars now being spent to discourage teenagers from risky behavior, such as engaging in unprotected sex and abusing alcohol and drugs, is falling mostly on deaf ears, experts told the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families Monday.The most recent statistics from federal agencies are rather numbing. About 5.4 million teens have binged on five or more drinks in a row and 454,000 report an average weekly consumption of 15 drinks. About 1.1 million teenagers become pregnant every year.

Of all AIDS cases reported in the United States by April 1991, one in five was among young adults in their 20s, meaning they engaged in risky behavior as teenagers. Three million teens are infected with a sexually transmitted disease annually. And an estimated 78 percent of adolescent girls and 86 percent of adolescent boys engaged in sexual intercourse by age 20.

"This explosion is (occurring) despite all the time and money that well-meaning people have invested in school-based clinics, sex education and safe sex," said Dr. Linda Meloy, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Virginia.

"Over the past 10 years," she said, "a 306 percent increase in federal funds spent on promoting sexual responsibility corresponded with a 48.3 percent increase in teen pregnancy."

Meloy contended school clinics create false security for parents and teenagers because they offer limited office hours and are not available in all schools.