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EDITORIAL

Kids will be kids, so adults had better be adults

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 12:01 am

We're letting too many situations be controlled by flawed judgment.

The kids are going to do it anyway, so let’s just make sure we protect them as much as possible. You’ve heard all the variations of that argument. They’re going to drink anyway, so let’s make sure we provide rides for them on prom night. They’re going to have sex anyway, so let’s hand out condoms in high school.

But there is a danger adults send the wrong signals with such actions, creating at least as much harm as good: the signal that teen drinking is OK; the signal that it’s fine for teenage boys to pressure teenage girls for sex; the signal that children can do whatever they want because the adults will always be there to shield them from the consequence of their actions.

And as a society we don’t seem to know when or where to draw the line.

Indiana has passed an underage-drinking amnesty law protecting teens from underage-drinking or other citations when they seek help for someone with an alcohol-related emergency. Teens may be fear getting into trouble, so let’s encourage them to do the right thing.

But the state doesn’t have the same kind of amnesty to shield people who seek emergency help involving drugs – in fact, only 11 states have laws encouraging Samaritans to seek help in drug overdose cases. Jean. Whittemore of Valparaiso is urging the state to adopt such a law. On Feb. 19, her son died of a heroin overdose because a friend who was with him did not seek help until it was too late.

Why the discrepancy? Is preventing drug abuse more important than preventing alcohol abuse? Do we care about saving kids in drug emergencies less than we care about saving kids in alcohol-related emergencies?

The whole “shield the children from reality” debate has taken on incredible urgency this week with the news about teen girls and the morning-after birth control pill. It must be given to girls of any age without a prescription, says a judge; no, says the FDA, only to girls 15 and older. What magic happens at age 15 that turns an irresponsible 14-year-old into a wise, mature woman?

Not to belabor the obvious, but there is a reason to draw a legal line between childhood and adulthood, with different sets of rights and obligations for each. Requiring a prescription creates the likelihood of adult involvement and mature judgment.

Children have always lacked judgment, but “children being children” isn’t the problem. The problem is the growing number of adults not willing to be adults. If we let more and more behavior be governed by the flawed judgments of children, what in the world do we expect to happen?