WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 21, 2013, 09:11 PM

Fargo - Moorhead teens facing more peer pressure

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - In the past few months we've seen kids acting out at a younger, and younger age.

By: Kay Cooley, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - In the past few months we've seen kids acting out at a younger, and younger age.

From sex, alcohol and drugs, to rashes of crime in the community.

In September, Fargo police nabbed a group of their youngest burglary suspects to date, one just 13.

Any parent will tell you their children grow up fast.

But let's take a look at some numbers that show, they might be moving a little too fast.

Edina Mustafic/Moorhead Freshman: “I think it was third or fourth grade"

Think back to the first time you felt peer pressured.

For students today, yesterday is probably pretty far off.

Megan MacFarlane/Moorhead Sophomore: “You're just exposed to more things.”

Mustafic: “If you hang out with the wrong type of people, like I did as a seventh and eighth grader, and this year I'm slowly getting away from them, they've been into alcohol, drugs.”

And they aren't the only ones; hallways across the metro are full of students in similar situations.

Kelly DuBois-Gerchak/Horizon Teacher: “I think that things have changed, society has changed, kids have changed a little bit.”

And they're changing fast.

Area high schoolers, some middle schoolers, even a handful of kids in elementary schools.

DuBois-Gerchak: “It's happening earlier and earlier.”

Scott Matheson/Moorhead Counselor: “You know years ago it was the high school we'd primarily see the issues pop up, and it's shifted more towards the middle school.”

Research shows when it comes to alcohol, twenty-two percent of our area middle schoolers have already tried it.

Mustafic: “It's crazy.”

That number jumps to sixty-two percent by the time they reach high school.

Izzy Larson/Horizon 8th Grader: “Drug abuse or alcoholism, whatever.”

DuBois-Gerchak: “Other issues that really affect this middle school age group.”

Sex, drugs, alcohol, although most middle schoolers are staying away, these problems still find a few.

Luke Sidel/Horizon 8th Grader: “People don't feel good about themselves, they'll find something else that will make them feel good, and they're not always good things.”

Devon Solwold/Moorhead Freshman: “Drinking and drugs would be the one of the worst.”

Five percent of students say they've smoked pot before they've even turned 13.

Mustafic: “It's sad to think how our society is slowly breaking down, like these kids are starting from third grade graders doing this stuff.”

Solwold: “Well I think that the main problem is peer pressure because that leads into so much more.”

Parents, when it comes to sex, seven percent of our area middle schoolers admit to having it.

DuBois-Gerchak: “Kids have more time on their hands.”

The now popular problems shed light on even larger social problems.

Matheson: “The exposure that kids have through it through media, it's become on their radar.”

Media, social media, and technology, all platforms where Limelight now has a dark side.

Matheson: “We've got younger students who are technologically savvy.”

Solwold: “During parties, or social media, kids always feel like they need to do something bad or they need to do something in the eyes of other kids is a cool thing, in order to get noticed.”

So these students.

Alexis Odegard/Moorhead Sophomore: “It's actually kind of scary.”

And their teachers,

DuBois-Gerchak: “We've got to catch these kids.”

Want to find a way to change what the "cool crowds" see.

DuBois-Gerchak: “Fourth, fifth, sixth grade, those are key times, especially when they're developing that sense of who they are.”

And teach these young, innocent kids what the "cool things" really are.

Matheson: “We see them growing up faster, but they're not quite ready to handle that.”

Everyone I spoke with shared one thing- education is key to change.

Moorhead school district's SADD program includes Middle School education.

It's one of the only middle school SADD programs in our area.