There is a frightening trend spreading amongst today’s teenagers. No, I’m not talking about texting each other naked pictures, surfing porn online or even having sex before they learn to drive.

The alarming teenage behaviour that has caused such concern in some U.S. schools that it has been banned is — wait for it — rampant hugging.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Seems hugging is all the rage among teenagers these days. According to a recent Toronto Star article on the “phenomenon,” they hug each other to express everything from “hello,” “good-bye,” “good job,” or even “hey, it’s recess!”

Girls hug each other sideways, putting their arms abound each other shoulder’s and press themselves cheek-to-cheek in utter glee. The surprise hug comes from behind and usually is followed by squeals of laughter and joy. Guys even hug their guy friends, a behaviour that, in my day, would have resulted in ridicule at best and, at worst, something I can’t repeat in a family paper.

A recent graduate of St. Mary’s in Pickering said hugging actually clogs up the hallways when you’re trying to get to class.

While no Canadian schools have yet gone so far as to ban hugging, the article quotes Kate Dickson, an English teacher at the Toronto School of Liberal Arts who says she requests at least “a ribbon of daylight” between hugging students.

Another school in Edmonton is discouraging its students from hugging, supposedly to stop the spread of H1N1 flu. Right.

Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd? Not only are hugs awesome, they are actually good for you.

Hugging is powerful. Hugging releases oxytocin, the brain’s bonding chemical. Studies going back as far as the 1930s have shown that people who did not receive adequate cuddling and touch as newborns later suffered both mentally and physically, even if all other basic needs were met. Others have shown that old folks who don’t get hugs may become senile faster and die sooner.

Maybe instead of banning hugging among teens, we should encourage it more among adults. Hugging your partner several times a day would help keep you connected and your relationship stronger, especially when life gets in the way and we literally and figuratively lose touch with each other.

And just imagine at work if every time you did a really great job or when something didn’t go well, someone in the office walked up to you and gave you a great big hug?

Sadly, our fears about inappropriate touching and teens getting too physical too soon have overshadowed an appreciation of one of the simplest, most healing human gestures.

I say do yourself a favour and hug someone today, will ya?

– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit www.joseyvogels.com.