Las Vegas Sun

October 26, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Teens approach basic issues practically

More than 950 students from 45 high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 52nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A spokesperson was chosen from each group to write a column about the students' findings.

A roomful of opinionated teenagers made for a great discussion in our group.

The first topic we discussed: Should contraceptives be available in high schools? That health education needs to teach about sex and the use of contraceptives at a younger age was unanimous.

Half argued that condoms should be available because that might cut the number of teenage pregnancies. The group said teens are practicing unsafe sex because they don't know how to practice safe sex.

The other half argued that schools cannot even afford new books, much less condoms; and that making condoms available is, in a way, promoting sex. They offered as an alternative a pamphlet that would contain information on where contraceptives can be found.

No consensus was reached on whether condoms should be available in schools.

Another unanimous decision was that birth control pills should not be available through schools. Because it requires a prescription, everyone agreed, birth control should be administered by a physician.

We moved on to discuss the driving age. Everyone agreed 16 is a good age. For if it were any higher the accident rate would not be any lower because new drivers' experience behind the wheel would still be the same.

Keeping age requirements fresh in mind we moved on to discuss whether the drinking age should be lowered. One side said that if it were any lower teenagers, overwhelmed from just receiving their licenses, would drink and cause even more accidents.

The others said the drinking age should be lowered to 18 and cited Europe, where underage drinking and alcohol abuse are less prevalent because there is not as much cultural pressure to drink. In the United States, they said, you turn 21 and it's time to party. No verdict was reached on this subject because the sides were equally passionate about their positions.

We also discussed whether Las Vegas is a teen-friendly city, and the answer was no. We live in a city that does not promote education - it promotes dropping out, the majority said. Las Vegas instills in many minds the idea that one can drop out of school, get a job as a valet and make just as much, if not more, money than with a job he would have received after finishing high school.

We also decided there are not a lot of places for teens to hang out. One student said we have what every other city has, but because we live in a city built on dreams and false hopes, we could never really be satisfied. So instead of complaining, maybe we should appreciate what we have.

Continuing along the same lines we discussed curfew times. Everyone seemed to understand that curfews are there to protect us. Curfew on the Strip is reasonable, the group said, but not so much elsewhere. We came to the conclusion that curfews should be consistent across the valley, with the exception of the Strip, and should be as follows: midnight on weekends and 10 or 11 on weekdays. That seems pretty reasonable, wouldn't you agree?

It seemed everyone left the room that day with many new opinions and thoughts on a few significant subjects that we could relate to. After all, we were teenagers discussing teen topics.

Bingham is a senior at Bonanza High School whose group covered Teen Topics.