This blog is the third in a series of Risky Teen Behaviors that I did for the Today show last week. Please pass these blogs on to educators and parents. What I found is that the majority of these risky teen behaviors are taking place in your homes and most parents are clueless about these trends. Younger kids are getting on board as well and in many cases addiction and death may be the outcome. Today’s blog is on steroid use and abuse.

Again. Again. Again. This week it was Marion Jones admitting to steroid abuse. The Reality Check here is to be mindful that the continual news coverage and media pieces on steroid use are impacting our kids. Instead of causing our kids to be more cautious about partaking, the statistics show that they are actually increasing in the use.

Beware: Kids as young as ten years old are taking illegal steroids to do better in sports. And it isn’t just boys who are partaking. Use among middle-school girls is almost as prevalent as it is among boys.

Steroids can harm the liver, stunt growth and cause a host of other long-term ailments, but these young bodies are particularly vulnerable. There are clear health risks that your child needs to know including severe acne, loss of hair, liver abnormalities (including peliosis hepatitis or blood-filled cysts), increase in cholesterol, rage, increase in blood clots and high blood pressure.

Signs to Look For:

* Increased acne

* Deeper voice

* Increased facial or body hair

* More aggressive behavior

* Marked change in personality

* Fast increase in weight and muscle mass

* Preoccupation with weights and working out

What Parents Can Do

* Talk to your child early. Kids as young as fifth grade are now indulging.

* Use the news. There have been a lot of stories lately about athletic pros and possible steriod use (Barry Bonds ring a bell?). Use them to relate to your kids.

* Monitor your computer. The majority of kids buy anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancement supplements at home straight off the Internet. Other kids say that they buy drugs from local distributors at private gyms or from youth coaches.

* Examine your kid’s wallet. Steroids can be pricey. So check that savings account for any large withdrawals, look to brothers, sisters and unsuspecting grandparents as loan sources, and monitor your credit card activity.

* Share your views. One of the main reasons kids take steroids is to please their parents. If you’ve been stressing about that college scholarship, winning at any cost, or how proud you are that she’s such an athlete (“Olympic are right around the corner, darling”), then also make sure she knows why you think steroids are wrong.

Keep your kids safe!

Michele Borba