Kids like tech because they want relationships

Published 8:40 am Friday, February 19, 2010

I grew up in a small town and graduated in 1982. The major temptations my peers and I experienced were smoking or chewing, partying with alcohol consumption, and drugs for the real “burn-outs,” coupled with sexual activity. I was blessed to escape all of these temptations, but I was an exception, as many of my peers did not.

My mother and father grew up in the same community and graduated in the early ’60s. From the stories I have heard, they and their peers experienced very similar temptations to what I faced.

My grandparents, another 25 years prior to that, the ills of the world were still very much the same. However, the population who yielded to the temptations were often those from the rougher side of life. I think it is safe to say that for many years the top four temptations for youth have been smoking — drinking — sex — drugs (whatever the flavor of the decade).

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Fast forward to today, 2010. Our kids and young adults today have many, many more options. Because of rapidly advancing technology, we have added new words to the vocabulary, ones you and I never knew a mere 27 years ago. Texting, sexting, Facebook friending, tweeting, instant messaging, the World Wide Web, enabling us to looking up how to make a bomb and how to mix certain drugs to get a new buzz. Yes, the Web is a wonderful tool; however, it is also a tool that has allowed us to have many things directly at our fingertips. It has networked our youth with their peers and others within a click of a button.

Relationships are what most individuals desire in life. When sock-hopping youth gathered together in the ’50s, it was the music, the cars, the community that was the gathering point. Then, the over-the-line activities occurred.

We were foster parents for 10-plus years, having had both foster and biological children.

I remember one youth in our home who told me drugs could be scored faster and easier during the school day than a cigarette. That shocked me as a caring adult — as someone who worked with teens, scared me; as a parent, angered me.

Here are five stats that should bother you. They do me:

1. One in three teenagers got drunk at least once last month. — House of Hope

2. One in four teenagers use illegal drugs. — House of Hope

3. More than 40 percent of teens who admitted drinking said they drink when they are upset; 31 percent said they drink alone; 25 percent said they drink when they are bored; and 25 percent said they drink to “get high.” — U.S. Surgeon General

4. Every single school day, more than 7,200 kids, on average, drop out of high school — 1.3 million each year. —The Daily Beast

5. Approximately 80 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Every day, nearly 3,000 young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers. — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

So, with all this dismal information, what can you and I do to make a difference for this current and next generations. We need to care! These are the people checking us out at the grocery store, servicing our vehicles, being the nurse at our doctors’ appointments, preparing our food when we go out to eat!  Each and every one of us will come into contact with individuals who have been affected and are up against all these temptations.

So, in closing, I want to challenge each person reading this too take action.  Start a deeper relationship with the youth you come in contact with. There is often a “white elephant” in the room when around at risk youth; ask questions, engage in their lives, be bold, be blunt if need be, call them on the carpet, just start talking to them, share your life knowledge. You may think they don’t want to talk to an older person. However, I beg to differ. Our youth seek after and yearn for relationships. That is why they are connected to all the technology 24/7. 

We at Youth For Christ desire to connect, to make a human difference in the lives of youth. As a faith-based organization, we seek to expose them to another relationship that can deeply affect their life choices. We are grateful for the partnership we have with Freeborn County Partners in Prevention Coalition, and we, with them, continue to prevent and reduce substance use among youth in Freeborn County.

One conversation.

One relationship.

“One” making a difference in another’s life.

Start today …

Robin Gudal is the director of operations for the South Central Minnesota Youth For Christ and The Rock, a youth center in Albert Lea.