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Many teens set good examples
Health advice
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We have seen and heard so many terrible stories about teenagers in the news lately. It’s become an everyday occurrence to learn of unacceptable events happening among young people.
How many times have you read or heard of teens posting nude photographs of themselves or others on the Web? Or of youths beating up someone, videotaping it and texting it to friends? It certainly isn’t rare to hear about young people breaking into homes and stealing televisions and other valuables.
However, the recent gang rape at Richmond High School in California and an incident in Florida where a teen was doused in rubbing alcohol and set on fire were particularly alarming.
Calling crimes like these vicious and cold-hearted, a judge recently sentenced three teenagers to prison for the beating death of a Starbucks manager. Attacked as he walked to work on a subway concourse last year, the 36-year-old died from injuries and a resulting asthma attack.
I can’t imagine what would make a teenager think any of these things are acceptable in our society — or that the behavior will go unpunished.
It’s unfortunate that most of the time, when we read or talk about teens, we hear about negative behavior when, in reality, there are so many outstanding adolescents in our area. Liberty County’s teenagers are doing outstanding things to make their parents and friends proud.
We shouldn’t always
focus on irresponsible youths and “bad apples” when
there are so many other healthy, well-rounded children in our society. I know I am guilty of this, which is why I need to point out several things.
Sometimes, adults, educators and community leaders need to recognize behaviors and programs that prevent adolescents from making poor choices. Parents are often unaware of the pressures their children face in school and among peers.
The Public Health Department staff wants to do everything possible to ensure a long, joyful and healthy life for every child. That means assisting them in becoming  responsible, contributing citizens. The health department also wants to help parents recognize problems in their communities and with children. But, let’s remember, we shouldn’t point out faults and irresponsible behaviors without also commending teenagers who’ve done good things and made us proud.
Here are a few things that make some teens special:
• They refuse to participate in violence. They don’t bully, tease or spread gossip about others. Many teens respect others, value differences and try to broaden their social circles to include others who are different from them.
• Youths get involved in their schools and communities by volunteering with community or church groups, playing sports, joining clubs and after-school programs. Volunteer work can be arranged through local high schools or community-centered organizations. It’s a great way to check out possible occupations or mentoring programs. Volunteering lets young people understand fields they are interested in training for. Plus, experience gained looks good on college and job applications.
• There are teens who avoid alcohol and drugs and try to stay away from people who use them. Most understand there is a strong link between the use of alcohol and drugs and violence.
• Responsible teenagers learn how to resolve arguments and fights without violence, and they encourage friends to do the same. If this is a problem, check out the Adolescent Health and Youth Development Program at the health department. Churches and after-school programs are also great resources. Many programs offer training in conflict resolution skills.
• Teens should accept responsibility for themselves and others. If they know someone is planning to harm someone else, children should alert an adult. While we all learn from an early age that it is wrong to tattle, there are times when it is the most courageous thing someone can do.
• Finally, well-rounded teenagers work hard to improve their schools and make communities safer. This can be done by joining an existing group to promote non-violence in schools and neighborhoods, or by launching an independent effort.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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