From Senator Sanders: TODAY'S YOUTH ARE TOMORROW'S FUTURE

Too often youth are discounted when we should look to them for answers to today's problems, because they are tomorrow's solution. 

In many ways today's youth never had it so well, but at the same time, never have so many had so much to deal with. To achieve a brighter tomorrow we must understand the issues youth are confronted with today.

We adults, parents and guardians must be ever mindful what our young people are dealing with in their day-to-day lives. When I was invited to author another column for the Rockaway Advocate this year, I decided to not speak on a single subject but to touch on several issues youth are currently faced with.

PEER PRESSURE/ SOCIAL MEDIA

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Young people like to impress their friends and win favor with their peers, but in today's 'go along to get along' culture, youth feel more and more pressured to fit in or even stand out. If you ever feel pressured to do something my friends, here is one simple rule to remember; if you feel uncomfortable about something, just don’t do it. Don't ever be afraid to speak up for yourself and others when you know it is the right thing to do.

We all look at social media then judge others and ourselves on looks, wealth, and intelligence. Social media is a great way to share and communicate, but it also has become one of our greatest enemies. Cyber bullying has taken harassment to a level youth never experienced in previous decades. In addition, sexting is a major cause for concern as many teens do not understand the lifelong consequences that sharing explicit photos can have on their lives. Consume social media with balance. Set a healthy limit on your use and activity.

DEPRESSION

About 3.1 million US adolescents had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, which means 20 percent of teens will experience depression before becoming an adult. One never knows what one could be going on in a person's mind, home or school. Depression can affect anyone. If something seems wrong with someone you care about, show him or her you are concerned and ask if they want to talk about it. In addition, if you yourself feel you need to get something off your chest or not sure how to go about doing something, just know there are people you can talk to who can help.

DRUGS & ALCOHOL

Many teens believe marijuana is less harmful than in years past and this could be due to changing laws surrounding marijuana. Although lawmakers are examining legalizing it, the effects of it can have dire consequences. Marijuana use exceeds cigarette use among teens today and a 2017 report showed that 6 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana daily, according to the web site VeryWellFamily.com.

Opioid and heroin use have risen sharply in recent years, leading to serious drug addiction and more frightening, fatal drug overdoses.

Alcohol use is down among teens, although 33.2 percent of US teens have reported underage drinking. You only get one life. Be kind to your body and do not abuse it.

SEX

High school students have reportedly been less sexually active over the past decade, with 41 percent reporting in the US. Even the teen birth rate has declined over the years. However, here in NYC, the rate for sexually transmitted diseases has skyrocketed in recent years with the highest rates in mostly Black and Latino communities. Learn the facts about sex, talk to a trusting adult about your feelings and do not have sex until you are ready. If you plan to or if you are already having sex, always use protection and get tested.

OBESITY

More than half of New Yorkers are overweight, and nearly half of all elementary school children are not at a healthy weight, says the City health department. Young people, we need you to embrace a healthy lifestyle while you’re young so you can develop good habits into adulthood. Eat foods that are good for you and get outdoors more.

                                                                                   EDUCATION

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More than ever our young people are graduating from City high schools, and the dropout rate is falling, according to recently released State data. Some teens feel so pressured to get into a good college they burn themselves out before they graduate. Teens dropout for many reasons, be it personal, issues at home or they just lose interest in education.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics a high school dropout is likely to earn $200,000 less over their lifetime when compared to a high school graduate. Therefore, my young people do what is best for yourselves and stay in school.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The U.S. Department of Labor said the summer labor participation rate of youth nationally has been declining for many years for those ages 16-24 from 77.5 percent in 1989 to 60 percent today. The Brookings Institute says the New York City rate is twice the national average.

Our unemployed youth globally number 71 million and the figure is at a historic peak says the International Labor Organization. These figures are disturbing. Summer employment provides youth with a glimpse into how they will care for themselves going forward in life.

POVERTY/HOMELESSNESS

With 1.7 million youth in New York City (1 in 5 residents) roughly 30 percent lived in poverty in recent years says a report by the NYU Furman Center. Our youth need, safe stable environments, especially at a time when they are most impressionable and vulnerable. Recently the City committed to opening its first ever shelter for young locals up to age 24, mostly to address homelessness among the LGBTQ community, according to the web site ny.curbed.com.

For information on youth service providers in your community contact my office at 718-523-3069 or 718-327-7017.