Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jul 2008
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Beacon Herald
Author: Donal O'Connor


The three most difficult things facing youth in Perth County are 
drugs, bullying and peer pressure.

That's the word from a survey of grades 7 and 8 students across the 
county conducted by the United Way of Perth County.

In total 695 students took part in answering the survey questions. 
Another 150 students participated in focus groups held in elementary schools.

"Drugs" was identified as among the top three issues by 54 per cent 
of respondents. Bullying, peer pressure and alcohol were identified 
as top issues by less than half as many but they were well above 
other "difficulties" such as boredom or smoking.

"Drugs, bullying, peer pressure and alcohol were consistently 
identified as the most pressing concerns for youth in Perth County," 
a report based on the study says.

Ellen Balmain, executive director of the United Way of Perth County, 
said she found it surprising that children as young as 12 and 13 are 
worried about drugs.

The survey did not ask about drug use but Ms. Balmain said that 
during focus group discussions it was apparent students were 
apprehensive about drugs, particularly methamphetamine, being forced 
on them when they go to high school.

Students also indicated it's easy to obtain marijuana.

"I think the thing we were most surprised about was that students 
said it was easier to access marijuana than either alcohol or 
cigarettes," she said. "From such a young age group I found that surprising."

Ms. Balmain acknowledged parents and school councillors would be well 
advised to talk to children about their fears around drugs. The 
United Way, she said, will be contacting both area school boards and 
making sure they get copies of the study.

Although students identified clubs and recreational facilities as 
among the strengths in their communities, a large number felt there 
was not enough for young people to do. Bike paths and shopping, pools 
and skate parks were among the most frequently cited amenities 
students felt lacking in their area.

Asked what changes they wanted to see in their communities in the 
next five years, most responses cited environmental improvements, 
more recreational facilities and better shopping opportunities.
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