Your Son at 17: Milestones

At age 17, your son is about to start the last stage of his adolescence, that phase between childhood and adulthood. But he’s still growing -- literally. Males keep getting taller into their early 20s. Here are some other things you can expect as your teen crosses the final threshold into manhood.

In General

Your son is still changing physically, but chances are his voice is as deep as it’s going to get and he’s already sprouted hair on his face.

Mentally, 17 is a crossover age for boys. Your son may be thinking about his future and goals. He may be a little more realistic about where he’s going in life. Or he might still have his head in the clouds about what he wants to do and be.

Emotionally, your son will be more independent than ever. He might feel like he needs to challenge you, or he might sound like a “know-it-all.” He may still have a lot of teenage ups and downs. Like adults, teens can develop depression. If your son is sad for more than 2 weeks, that’s not normal, and you should call his doctor.

His growing independence may mean he can resist peer pressure better than before, but he’ll probably want to spend more time with his friends than with his family. He’ll still need you to set limits. It might be easier to get him to obey the rules if you talk about the consequences of breaking them instead of just telling him what to do.

Dating and Sex

Your 17-year-old son probably thinks about dating and sex a lot. He’ll start to understand give-and-take in his romantic relationships, and he’ll see that other people’s happiness can be as important as his own. He’ll be more aware of his orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, etc.), and he may even have sex. You can help him sort through it by talking about things like:

Your son might have to make some choices about sex, but he needs information so he can decide what to do. He’s going to learn about sex somewhere -- might as well be from you so you know he’s getting the right information.

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Body Image

Teenage boys can be very concerned with their appearance. Eating disorders are more common in girls, but boys can develop them as well. Teens who play sports are especially at risk because they might feel pressure to “make weight” or look a certain way.

You can help your son avoid an eating disorder by talking to him about:

  • Healthy eating
  • Treating food as fuel, not a reward
  • The dangers of dieting or eating to handle his emotions
  • What he sees in magazines, on TV, or online

If you notice signs of an eating disorder, talk to your son. Bring his doctor into the conversation, too. Schedule an appointment for your son to have a check-up.

Alcohol and Drugs

As your son spends more time with his friends, he may come across teenagers who drink alcohol or do drugs. An estimated one in four kids between ages 12 and 17 have used drugs. Ages 16 to 18 are the peak ages for drinking and using drugs. Talk openly with your son about these issues. It could lower his risk of using drugs and alcohol, but it’s also important that you walk the talk. If you use them, you’re telling him it’s okay. The same goes for smoking.

The Internet and Social Media

Nine out of 10 teenagers use the internet on a mobile device like a smartphone. It’s just a part of life for your son, but he needs your guidance on how to stay safe online. Make sure you talk to him about:

  • How to control the privacy of his online profiles
  • Not posting personal details like phone numbers and addresses
  • Using a good password that other people can’t guess easily
  • Letting you know if he gets messages from people he doesn’t know
  • Not sending pictures or videos he wouldn’t want the whole world to see
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 18, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Advocates for Youth: “Growth and Development, Ages 13 to 17 -- What Parents Need to Know.”

Sutter Health, Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Parents & Teachers: Teen Growth & Development, Years 15 to 17.”

CAI Global: “Stages of Adolescent Development.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Social Development During the Teen Years.”

Nemours: “Eating Disorders.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tween and Teen Health.”

Pew Research Center: “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015.”

Kids.gov: “Six Tips for Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media.”

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