Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Partying, smoking, drug-taking? It's common, students say

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Students at one Auckland high school are not convinced drinking, smoking and drugs are as rare as an Auckland University survey suggests.

A sample of three boys and three girls at Pakuranga's mid-decile Edgewater College said they believed teenage drinking and smoking were becoming more common, not less.

"There's a lot of partying," said Martin Yerkovich, 16. "Smoking in school has become so normal that people will just light their smokes on the way to school. When I go to the market on Saturday a lot of kids are high on drugs."

Mackenzie Valgre, 16, doesn't use marijuana herself but said it was becoming more common than cigarettes.

"I think it's just a stress relief," she said. "It's easier to get weed as opposed to alcohol, you don't have to have 18-year-old friends to get it, you can just go to the tinny-house yourself."

Our small sample reflects the mixed ethnic identities of today's Kiwi teenagers. Martin is Maori, Samoan and Croatian; Mackenzie is Pakeha; Moses Ratumu, 13, is a Thai/Cook Islander; Jonelle Rangikotua, 15, is Maori; Selvi Balasubramaniam, 16, is Tamil; and Jagjeet Singh, 18, is Sikh.

Martin's mum lives in Perth and his dad lives "up north". He stays with his aunt and grandmother and sees his parents "hardly ever".

Moses lives with his mother on weekdays and his father at weekends, but he sees little of either of them. "Mum's at work till 12 at night. Dad goes somewhere. The only day I get [with Dad] is when we go to church," he said. "My sister looks after me, she's 27."

The other four live with both their parents and feel they have enough time with each of them. "More than enough," joked Jonelle.

Most of the six enjoy sport and say they easily get the hour a day of physical exercise that experts recommend for their age group.

"It's like five hours a day," said Jonelle, who trains for waka ama (outrigger canoeing) four days a week and goes to the gym on the other days.

"My life revolves around sports, I love it," she said. "I don't really watch TV. I'm not really on the internet. I don't have a Facebook page."

Moses plays basketball, tennis, squash and table tennis and takes part in a Cook Islands darts tournament at weekends. After his sports and his dinner, he watches TV "for about an hour, then I'm knocked out".

Mackenzie has rowing on Saturdays and Sundays in peak season. She tutors younger children after school and "I always have my iPad on me so I'm constantly checking it".

"Half my time on the computer at home is for homework, the other half is on Facebook and so on," she said.

Selvi plays netball and does Indian dancing, but admits to spending "more than an hour but less than four hours" on her computer in the evenings.

"I do my homework and study for tests coming up. Then I'll probably read before I go to bed," she said.

Jagjeet plays squash, goes running and orienteering and walks the family dog every day. He takes part in "religious things" with his family in the evenings, never watches TV and uses the internet "only for homework".

Only Martin plays no sport. "My passion is music." After his homework, he plays Xbox "action games", goes on the internet and watches TV.

The group said weight was not an issue for their friends despite steadily rising obesity rates.

"It's not something we talk about among our friends," said Selvi. "We're easy about it."

Mackenzie said she did not see bullying directed at students' weight.

- NZ Herald

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