06/03/08 — The big reveal: Survey has information that could help save teens, families

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The big reveal: Survey has information that could help save teens, families

OK, admit it — if you have a child anywhere near high school age, reading the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey made you cringe, just a little.

The survey, which was a product of a partnership between the Wayne County Public Schools and the Wayne County Health Department, put questions in front of more than 800 local students. More than 775 responded.

Their answers were revealing.

Probably one of the scariest was that 59 percent of those who responded said they had already experienced sex.

That’s right — 60 percent.

Although it might not seem like that startling a statistic when you are talking about teenagers in general, it is a whole lot more disturbing when the number reported might include your child.

The survey also discussed alcohol use — 37 percent — also a little scary, and drug use, inhalants specifically — 14 percent.

And then. of course, there was the number of teens who had eaten french fries five or more times over the previous week — 23 percent.

The survey might have been hard to read, but it really is a document that every parent in Wayne County should look over — even if he or she is certain the answers do not apply to his or her own children.

But just reading is not enough. A survey like this should prompt parents to sit down with their teenagers and talk about their experiences, their concerns and their thoughts on issues like sex, alcohol use and drugs.

Lines of communication should be opened that allow the teens to speak without fear of reprisal — and then a plan put into place to keep that communication flowing.

Many parents simply do not want to believe that their children are into anything that would harm them. They think that they have taught them all the values and morals they need to survive in the world.

Truth is, what most of them don’t count on is the power of peer pressure.

The county’s survey might not be easy to swallow, but it is a critical first step in addressing some of the issues that really could seriously damage a child’s life and future.

The most important result of the survey’s revelations might be if more parents decide to pay closer attention to what their children are doing and who their friends are. And if even 10 conversations are started between teens and their parents because of what is written in that survey, that is even more good news.

Information like this will also be critical as this county continues to explore ways to help students succeed and to avoid the pitfalls that go along with growing up.

That is — if parents and others read it and act on it.

Published in Editorials on June 3, 2008 11:01 AM