Our view: What's teenage life really like these days?

So what's really going on with our teenagers?

Are they happy, healthy and well-adjusted?

Are they drinking, smoking, having sex, doing drugs?

Are they eating right?

Do they feel safe?

It's tough to know what's going on in the teenage mind.

That's why a recent survey of 32,273 Gwinnett County teenagers deserves your attention.

We all think we know our kids. But the survey paints a much more accurate picture of teen life in Gwinnett. After all, there are some things teens don't want to share with mom and dad. In the survey, they could be open and honest without fear of losing driving privileges or being grounded for the weekend.

And in many cases, parents would rather not know.

"Parent denial is rampant in Gwinnett," Ellen Gerstein writes in the introduction to the survey results. Gerstein is executive director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, which published the report. The Coalition also surveyed teens in 1996 and in 2000, giving the most recent results a barometer to help identify if behavior is improving or getting worse.

Some of the report's findings:

' 16 percent of middle school youth and 51 percent of high school youth reported having had consensual sexual contact.

' Youth are engaging in sexual activity at a younger age (12-14 years).

' Of the sexually active, one in five began having sex at age 14 or younger.

' 62 percent of high-schoolers have lied to their parents about their whereabouts.

' One out of three have skipped school.

' One out of four have stolen from a store.

' 18 percent have carried a knife, gun or weapon for protection.

' 71 percent of high-schoolers are aware of gang activity in the school or neighborhood.

The survey covered a range of topics (not just the bad stuff), questioning kids about school, faith, family and health.

But the purpose here is not to try to report all of the survey's findings. The purpose is to make you aware that this community tool exists and that you owe it to yourself, your family and especially your children to know more about what kind of world they live in.

The Gwinnett Coaltion is offering several ways to accomplish this:

' The survey results are online on the Coalition's Web site at www.gwinnettcoalition.org.

' Copies of the results in booklet form can be obtained by contacting the coalition online or by calling 770-995-3339.

' Coalition staff will come to your group meeting, church, place of business, etc. and present the survey results in a group setting. To schedule, contact the coalition at the above number or e-mail info@gwinnettcoalition.org.

The unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Columns, letters to the editor and cartoons reflect the opinions of the individuals who penned them. It is the policy of the Gwinnett Daily Post to correct all errors of fact. Corrections usually run on Page 4A.