The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 4, 1997 · Page 66
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 66

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 4, 1997
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Page 66
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TEENS & FREEDOM: AGE LIMITS Kimberly Paschall, 13 Miyun Kim, 15 Ajay Shalwala, 13 Amy Williams, 18 Jaime Bullock, 14 Elainia Ross, 15 David Benavides, 16 When can kids do "adult" things? Teens on panel talk with Tipper Gore about being allowed to make their own decisions. E VERY YEAR, IT SEEMS, kids do more "grown-up" things — from dyeing their hair to having sex — at younger ages. Is there a single, acceptable "age of consent," when teenagers are old enough to do the things adults increasingly seem to disparage? Absolutely not, say teens who responded to USA WEEKEND'S survey on Teens & Freedom. Given a list of items for which to pick an age when they should be allowed to do them, teens gave a range as varied as the activities. Average ages teens selected range from 13 (to be at a mall without a parent) to "not until marriage" (to be sexually active). And that doesn't include the many teens who answered "never" (see chart). The question "How young is too young?" was debated by USA WEEKEND'S 10th teen panel of Washington, D.C.-area students, hosted by Tipper Gore, mental-health adviser to the Clinton administration, wife of Vice President Al Gore and mom of four. Like most mothers of teens, she has weathered her own parental challenges. "Rules are important... and even laws can be important in helping young people at least wait until they are old enough to make certain decisions," Gore said. "Communicate with your child so they know why you are saying 'no'... and for the child, let the parent into your life." Here are excerpts from the roundtable discussion, held in Mrs. Gore's office in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House. AT WHAT AGE CAN A KID BE HOME ALONE AT NIGHT? Amy: A child should be at least 15 or 16, just [so that] if something happened the child would know how to handle it. Jabari: Even at the age I'm at now I sometimes get nervous [at home alone] because it's dark outside and you get that itchy feeling in the pit of your stomach. Amy: Even at the age of 18 I get scared! Gore: It's not that we think, as parents, you're going to do something extraordinarily wrong, but anything could happen. Somebody could break into the house. You could do something like my son [Albert Jr., who] cut his finger and required stitches, and he wouldn't even tell us. He was 9 or 10. ... But even a minor emergency like that, you may not know how to handle it ... so I think 13 or 14 is a good age. "At my age, you often make silly decisions. Say you want a tattoo today - you may not want it tomorrow." -tatari Stewart, 13 SHOPPING MALL RESTRICTIONS Ajay: In the mall I go to, if you're in a group of four or more and you're not [shopping], they won't let you stay. Gore: So the malls have gotten tough? H«l«n: A lot of parents have a false idea of the mall, like it's considered safe ... but it's such a social scene that sometimes there are conflicts. Jabari: My mom used to think malls are safe, iM hn ofthefoUowtoig Average Or age Never Use hair dye 13 9% Attend a concert without a parent 15 - "Get a tattoo' ~ "" * 17 " 17% Be sexually active 18 9% (Only after marriage: 2%) i Wl|£ ^*W|IW ^ r v - ^ ^ but at the mall where I go see movies ... there was a car-jacking recently. David: During the winter there's nothing to do ... so sometimes I go hang around in the mall with my friends. Kimberly: [Malls' rules] are discriminatory. Jaime: We were walking to the ice cream store and the [security guard] came up and told us to leave. We weren't even in a group of four. Elainia: When I go it's usually two of us, and we never get stopped. But if it's four of us, we're guaranteed to get stopped. Mtyun: But you shouldn't go to a mall to socialize. Why not do something more original, like go outside and play a sport? WHEN CAN TEENS GET A TATTOO OR NOSE RING? Jabari: At my age, you often make silly decisions about what you want and don't want. Say you want a tattoo today — you may not want it tomorrow. Klmberry: It's just an immature act by adolescents, who do things impulsively. Miyun: At our age, we can't really afford [tattoos]. Body piercing right now is No. 1. ... Ears are fine — but all over your face? That's a little much. Holen: That's just because we're not used to seeing it on [places like] the belly "Parents have a false Idea of the mall, like It's safe ... but sometimes there are conflicts." 28% of teens surveyed say they should NEVER be allowed to smoke; 19% say they should NEVER be 26 USA WEEKEND • May 2-4,1887

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