Future Voices: Getting the message across to teenagers

File photo dated 29/01/09 of a person drinking a bottle of beer, as young people in the UK are more

File photo dated 29/01/09 of a person drinking a bottle of beer, as young people in the UK are more likely to have been drunk by the age of 13 than those in almost any other country, according to a study. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday November 19, 2012. Those aged 15 to 16 are more likely to have been drunk at least once in the last month than their counterparts almost anywhere else, while young people agree that 'drinking to get drunk' is the defining feature of their relationship with alcohol, the survey for the charity Alcohol Concern found. See PA story CONSUMER Alcohol. Photo credit should read: David Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Don't turn round!'Don't do that!' 'Don't open that!'

Young people have the irrational tendency to find thrill in things they are told not to do. With this in mind, it is surprising those teaching young people forget to consider this.

It doesn't work if you just say 'don't smoke, drink or do drugs' – young people need real information about the consequences. Our views need to be challenged when having such discussions, instead of being forced into a particular 'right' way of thinking.

From my experience, in this article, I am going to outline the five main effective ways to teach young people about health issues:

1) Get someone to talk to them who is an expert on the subject and has been through a similar thing. One mistake teachers often make is condemning an act they have never tried. It's hard to tell a young person 'Don't do that. That's harmful!' and their source of knowledge is because someone else has told them so. It is much more emotive to get a speaker in who has been to the extremes because they were in the same position the young person is in and, therefore, can connect on a personal level.

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2) Do not use science as your means of arguing. In all honesty, a lot of young people have no regard of what scientists tell them. The general feel is that science says too much of anything is bad for you, so I won't listen to them. To some this may seem irrational but this is the general mind-set of young people.

3) Do not speak down to the young people. A lot of adults underestimate the things that young people encounter nowadays, leading them to talk to them like they are children, which would make them automatically switch off. Try to find out what they know first, and then talk to them on that level.

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4) Try not to say 'I know how you feel'. In most cases this is extremely unhelpful – especially when talking to young people on a one-to-one basis. The most important thing you can do is just listen. Young people react positively when they feel the adult generally cares about what they have to say, and their wellbeing. This will make them feel comfortable around you and increase the likelihood of them talking to you about these issues.

5) Do your research. There is nothing worse than a teacher trying to discuss an issue with students and then the student brings up their point of view and the teacher either doesn't understand what is going on, or has no way of responding.

One organisation that takes these things into account is the Matthew Project, a charity that supports communities affected by drugs and alcohol. Maddie, 16, said: 'For someone who's never been drunk before, trying on the beer goggles is the best way for me to be educated about alcohol'.

Kris, 16, said: 'I liked how they actually cared about us and listened to us. Instead of lecturing us about what's right they just seemed genuine in trying to help us.'

For more information go to: http://www.matthewproject.co.uk or http://www.talktofrank.com/ Esther Oyewole, 16, Wymondham College

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