With all the negative talk about “helicopter parents,” sometimes we are shamed into thinking we should be hands off with our teens. Don’t you believe it! There’s a difference between being overly controlling and properly supervising. You child still needs you to keep an eye on things. He or she may not like it, but your instinct…that being around and being aware will keep your son or daughter safe…is correct. A study reported on recently in the Washington Post indicates that teens who spend more than the average amount of unsupervised time hanging out with peers are more likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and drink alcohol. The study’s authors expected to see a greater protective effect from structured activities, but they they found that “Organized time, such as arts classes at school, religious activities outside school and community volunteer work, had a very modest protective effect. Kids with the most time in these activities showed a 7 percent to 18 percent lower than average risk of drinking or smoking.” Compare that to the effect of unsupervised activity: “They found that teens who spent the most unsupervised time with peers were 39 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes, 47 percent more likely to drink alcohol and 71 percent more likely to smoke marijuana than average.” Apparently, it’s most important to avoid regularly letting our kids simply “hang out” day after day without any adults around to keep a watchful eye on things.