It has been said many times, and it is worth repeating: Steamboat Springs is a wonderful place to raise children. It is small town with above-average socioeconomic levels, good schools, abundant activities and access to a wondrous outdoor playground. Who could ask for more?
But what we learned this past week is that no matter how idyllic life seems on Steamboat's surface, we cannot presume that our adolescents do not deal with the issues that challenge adolescents and their parents everywhere.
On Thursday, a group of Steamboat Springs High School seniors discussed the results of the most recent SteamboatCARES survey. The survey, conducted last year at the high school, revealed sobering statistics about teen behavior.
The survey showed it is naive to believe that raising children here somehow provides protection from the dangers teens normally encounter. The truth is teens in Steamboat use drugs and alcohol and have sex at rates similar to their peers in communities across the country. Many struggle with self-esteem and thoughts of suicide. Too many say they have been sexually assaulted.
According to the survey:
n Nearly 65 percent of Steamboat Springs High School students drink alcohol. Of those, 43.5 percent drink with the intention of getting drunk.
n Slightly more than one-third have been passengers in a vehicle driven by someone whom they knew had consumed alcoholic beverages within two hours of getting behind the wheel.
n Half of the students who participated in the survey have tried marijuana, but use of harder narcotics is below national averages.
n Overall, 30 percent of the school's male students said they have had sexual intercourse, compared with 43 percent of the female students. About one-fourth of the males said they do not use condoms.
n About 25 percent of the surveyed females said they have been sexually assaulted, defined by the survey as either having sex against their wishes or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
n Nearly 50 percent of female students indicated they felt overweight. The national average is 36 percent.
n More than one-fourth of the male students and half of the female students said they have considered suicide.
For many adults, the numbers may not be surprising. The statistics are in line with national trends. Still, it's important to know what the numbers are lest we become complacent.
The students who delivered the statistics at Thursday's meeting had an important message for parents. They pleaded with the adults present to talk about the statistics and the issues behind them with their children.
That's sage advice.
Of course, it would be wrong to presume that the community can lower the numbers in the SteamboatCARES survey simply by talking with our kids more. Teens are going to continue to engage in risky behavior. But by being more aware of such behavior and being more available to our youth, we have a better chance of helping them.