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Teens tell all: What they reveal about sex, drugs and social media

Eight teenagers sat down with TODAY for a raw, unfiltered conversation about what goes on inside their lives.
/ Source: TODAY

What does it really mean to be a teen right now?

It's a famously turbulent stage of life, filled with anxiety and peer pressure, as well as the thrill of self-discovery and the promise of independence. Modern adolescents must also navigate social media, technology and changing sexual mores.

As part of TODAY's "Teens Tell All" series, eight Colorado high schoolers, ages 15-17, sat down with NBC's Stephanie Gosk for a raw, unfiltered conversation about what goes on inside their lives.

The revelations were startling: They’ve been exposed to sexting since middle school. Almost all said it’s easier to hook up with someone than to hold their hand in school. And social media means there’s nothing private in their lives anymore.

“Getting into a fight with your friend, everyone knows about it. Everyone knows both sides. Everyone knows what you said over text,” said Marley, one of the Colorado students.

Related: Want to change your teen's behavior? Study suggests focusing on the positive

There are the familiar issues of adolescent drug use, including prescription drugs, and how young women face harsher judgment than the guys.

“If you wear something, you get slut-shamed. If you do something you get slut shamed. If you walk some way you get slut-shamed ... like everything is picked apart about a girl," said Alexandra. "Most of the time it's girls slut-shaming other girls. That's what I've noticed."

In Colorado, where marijuana is legal for adults, many of the teens said it’s now easier to get pot than a six-pack of beer.

Max, Claudia and Morgan.
Max, Claudia and Morgan.NBC News

They also feel the pressure to excel, saying the pressure is tougher on them now than when their parents were kids.

"You have to have to get straight A's, join clubs, do sports, have a good GPA, make sure you get into good colleges, have a social life," said Alexandra. "But still be able to hang out with your family."

Morgan admitted her mother is a "helicopter parent."

"She wants to know what's going on," said Morgan. "And it's understandable. It can get annoying, I guess. But I know it's out of her heart."

Cam, Alexandra and Jalen.
Cam, Alexandra and Jalen.NBC News

Related: How much sleep do teens really need?

Still, the teens urged parents to have trust in them.

“Guide them as much as you can. But at the end of the day, they need to learn for themselves what's right and wrong,” Alexandra said.

Watch the video for more about social media, lying to parents and the pressures of being a teen today