Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Forum gives teens chance to voice their opinions

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Cameron Carlson of Sierra Vista High School

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 54th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 23. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Cameron Carlson of Sierra Vista High School writes about issues covered by his group, “Teen Topics.”

Teen topics today are often controversial but, for some reason, most teens do not get to have their opinions heard. Adults typically deal with those issues without any input from the teens whom their decisions happen to affect.

The Sun Youth Forum opened my eyes to the fact that students have very strong opinions on issues affecting them. I am grateful that through the forum, my opinion, along with the opinions of my group, could be heard.

The group discussed the possibility of Nevada passing a law banning the use of cell phones while driving. (California passed a similar law that has been in effect since 2008.) The use of any hand-held cellular device would be strictly prohibited, and a driver would have to be older than 18 to use a non-handheld cellular device while driving.

The general consensus in the group was that this was a good idea. A 2006 University of Utah study said that drivers using a cell phone, hand-held or non-handheld, were more likely to get into an accident than people defined as legally drunk.

I have texted while driving, but I would not have if it had been against the law. I feel that the law could prevent driver distraction and make the roads safer for everyone.

Also discussed was body image — a big problem among teens today. Some in my group found a direct connection between body type and the clique that students feel they belong to at school.

Today, many of the big clothing brands send messages suggesting that if you wear their clothing you will look good and be cool like the models in the pictures. These advertisements can make teens feel insecure, making them feel like they need to look differently or lose weight to be accepted.

My group agreed that most of this pressure is on girls; many feel like they need to be a size double zero just because the girl in the commercial is. In reality, very few are actually even able to be a size double zero while maintaining a healthy body weight. Girls in the group felt that modeling agencies should hire more plus-size models because the girls would be more likely to picture themselves in that dress and it might put a little less pressure on them to become that perfect, stereotypical girl.

A big debate in my group was what should be the appropriate age for teens to start dating. There were myriad opinions on this subject. Many felt that if they could go to past relationships, they would definitely change many things about them. They would not have kissed that boy, or went to the eighth-grade dance with that girl, or would have chosen not to date early at all.

The age of 16 was brought up over and over; it was a general consensus that dating too early was pointless. Why go on a date if mommy and daddy have to drop you off at a fast-food restaurant and you need to be back before the streetlights come on?

An abundant amount of kids in the group felt that they had bad dating experiences in middle school and if they could go back, they would undo them. Some felt that it is all just part of life, and it is from some of the worst relationships that you learn the most.

I would have to say that if an exact age had been chosen, it would have assuredly been 16, but about half of the group felt age should have nothing to do with it, and it should be purely a parental decision based upon the maturity of the teen.

These were just a few glimpses of the many topics that my group and I discussed at the Sun Youth Forum. I speak for the entire group when saying thank you to all who were involved! We really appreciated the opportunity to have our voices and opinions heard.

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  1. "These advertisements can make teens feel insecure, making them feel like they need to look differently or lose weight to be accepted."

    Advertisements don't actually make anyone do or feel anything. Anyone with the freedom to turn it off has no excuse to complain. To be "stereotypically perfect" is just the tyranny of the herd forcing conformity. Exercise your freedom -- detach and be liberated accordingly.

    ". . .With morality the individual is led into being a function of the herd and to ascribing value to himself only as a function. . .Morality is the herd instinct in the individual." -- Frederich Nietzsche 1882 "The Gay Science"