Editorial: Learning from youthful mistakes

Last updated 13:00 23/10/2012

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OPINION: Part of being a teenager is making mistakes.

For evidence, you need look no further than the Mail's front pages covering the plight of two different groups of young people who decided to take their four-wheel-drives for a spin through the Waimea River.

Both got stuck and had to be winched from their flooded vehicles by the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter.

In Sunday's incident an 11-year-old was swept downstream but fortunately emerged uninjured.

Police and emergency services are understandably annoyed at the waste of time and resources.

Rash decisions are, of course, not the sole property of teenagers and there have been several previous incidents involving vehicles getting stuck in the river.

Just last month a 70-year-old whitebaiter's vehicle was stranded on a gravel bank when the Motueka River rose quickly.

We all make mistakes; learning from them is the real trick.

The Mail's series on teenagers last week revealed a range of risk-taking, from binge drinking to one-night stands.

But the interviews with year 13 students from four of the region's high schools also revealed talent, ambition, and a heady grasp of the complex social and technological age today's teenagers have to grapple with.

There were those who mapped out their careers in great detail; others who had no idea but knew that their skills had to be broad and flexible to adapt to a tight and changing job market.

Most predicted they would swap careers regularly, out of necessity or choice.

"You've got to change it up . . . you get bored of doing the same thing every day," one 18-year-old said.

Adapting to change, or making it happen, was a theme running through the series - in jobs, in technology, even in social settings.

The anti-smoking message, for example, has got through to many, judging by the comments against cigarettes.

The dangers of drinking to excess do not appear to be so well ingrained. Unsurprisingly, a number are prepared to push to and beyond the boundaries, though some say the embarrassing consequences of a binge have led to better decisions next time.

The parental dilemma of whether their teenage children should be provided with a controlled amount of alcohol was also raised - some say it is an effective strategy; others say it is naive to think the parental supply is all they drink.

As expected of a generation growing up with the internet, it is an integral part of teenage life as a learning tool, and the glue of social interactions.

Along with a deep knowledge of its uses, there is a ready awareness of its advantages and the drawbacks, particularly around privacy.

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The series could not be, and was not intended to be, fully representative of teenage behaviour.

But as a snapshot of a group of school-leavers on the brink of adulthood it shows that risk-taking is only part of their makeup.

- The Nelson Mail

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