What's the problem with kids today?

When it comes to our children — what they’ve been doing, how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking — the Cayman Islands government apparently doesn’t want you to know — at least not in a timely fashion.

We will make one thing perfectly clear: These are our children. They are not government property.

Information collected by the government about our children’s attitudes and behaviors is, more so than any other public record, the business of the people. The subjects of such studies are connected to us more intimately than any government policy.

When the government shelves, suppresses or otherwise “sits on” reports related to financial accountability or public sector performance, our emotions range anywhere from annoyance to disdain. When the government attempts to suppress reports related to our children — and, in particular, their sexual activity, substance use and mental health — that is a matter of a different magnitude.

In November 2012, our government, in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization and funded by the European Commission, conducted a survey targeting Cayman’s adolescent population (specifically, the “1,186 school-going young persons aged 15-19”) in all of the country’s 12 public and private high schools.

The study, part of a regional project called “Strengthening the Integration of British and Dutch Overseas Caribbean Territories in the Regional Response to HIV,” examined “a number of health outcomes and behavior,” covering topics such as pregnancy and abortion, sexual behaviors, abusive experiences, drug and alcohol use by themselves or family members, diet, exercise and mental health problems.

In short, the study was “comprehensive,” both in terms of who was surveyed and what was asked.

The survey was conducted in late 2012. The report was written in 2013 and the contents “finalized” by mid-2014.

Now it is May 2015, and the government is just releasing the documents. … And that most modest and tardy action has only occurred after a copy of the report “fell from the sky,” so to speak, and a Compass reporter began posing questions to the Ministry of Health.

When, finally, officials relented and “officially” released the 112-page report, they appended to it a 2-page press release and 5-page “guidance note” that are crammed with the usual platitudes, promises and positive spin.

The report itself, however, is instructive, substantive and sobering. According to the survey (which reached more than 80 percent of the target population), Cayman’s adolescents are grappling with very real issues. Many are having sex, drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Many have been victims of physical violence or sexual abuse. Many experience depression and contemplate suicide. Many aren’t eating as healthily, or as regularly, as they should. Many say they are dissatisfied with their weight or appearance.

Fewer than half live with their biological fathers, and most said they had not talked to the adults they live with about serious topics such as sex, HIV or depression.

According to the report, “The picture that emerges from these results is of adolescents vulnerable to ill-health and even suicide attempts as a result of a combination of factors including violence and lack of emotional and social support from key institutions, namely the family, school and health care services.”

In other words, Cayman’s adolescents need all the support they can get. And we as a society may not be doing enough to help.

But what are we, the public, supposed to do — if we aren’t being told what’s going wrong, or even what’s going right?


  1. The problem here are the parents and until we start to hold parents responsible for the actions of their children nothing will change for the better. Also, nothing good usually comes from a broken home and I would like to encourage people to think about this before making decisions that would impact their children.

  2. I do not believe that opening up to the public will help that much; remember children read the news and listen to the TV too; and don’t fool ourselves, they are smart in their own way in finding out what they have to.
    I however do believe that informing children about the good bad and ugly is best taught in the schools and at home. When children hear their parents telling them at home about what is good and what is bad, and then they go to school and hear the same thing, they will hopefully connect the dots.
    I do not feel that the government is hiding anything from the public about our kids; I just feel that they may think, that the public will only respond to the problem in a negative way causing more harm than good. {This is only my thoughts, and not necessarily have to be agreed by anyone}
    Of course two wrongs do not make a right, but many of these problems you will find in schools throughout the entire world. I believe it would prove positive that in each class room the old question and answer time returns. Children love to put their hand up and answer, team debate and learn. It is not easy on the ordinary parents who cannot afford a helper now-a-days working from 8am and reaching home at 6pm. We cannot crucify those parents, I know what they go through, and the teachers are well burnt out by three 0,clock.
    That leaves the afterschool program. Do we have anyone from the education department visiting those programs to make sure that children is getting help with assignments, and not thinking that its just a place to hangout and have fun. Or are they just depending on a paper report? There are children who joined the program before, but when the afterschool bus is going to drop your 12 year old daughter two miles away from home that is asking for trouble. I believe more visits and interest, and more follow up needs to be done by the education department in regards to schools. I have seen some schools have gone all out preparing their annual programs and no one from the department of education or Ministry turned up. How do you think the teachers, and children feel? They listen to talk. If the education system shows no interest, why should they. Remember they are children, someone we all used to be.

  3. There is an island wide tradition where many children are raised more or less by foreign helpers who have no authority to punish the children that they care for. This must have a real impact on the child rearing and development.

  4. Then why was the study conducted if it only received "the usual platitudes, promises and positive spin"?
    Does CIG have a strategy here? Make the Cayman Islands the last place in the world where one would want to commit crime against children by implementing draconian laws?
    May be employing a nutritionist at schools who knows and teaches parents that a deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders? A nutritionist that knows that Vitamin B2 deficiency is not common but can be created, ironically enough, by certain antidepressant drugs called tricyclics. This can lead to further depression? That Vitamin B6 is commonly very low in people who are depressed. This is particularly true in people taking birth control pills or estrogen in other forms. That the most common symptom of folic acid deficiency is, in fact, depression. That Magnesium is a critical mineral used in sending messages along your nerves. That SAMe (amino acid methionine)levels tend to be low in in depressed people. That Low fat diets can lead to depression if they are deficient in a specific fatty acid (the building block of fats) called omega-3.
    May be CIG is planning to employ leading edge professional in PTSD that ACTUALLY WORK, such as programs developed by Dr. Larry Nims or Dr. Jon Connelly? If almost 20% of children in this country were sexually assaulted, they all need therapies that work, not antidepressants.
    What strategy does CIG have? And why only "adolescents need all the support "? Isn’t it a bit too late?

  5. The kids are not the problem, the kids are learning whatever it’s been thought by who is teaching and discipline them. The parents has the biggest role, but today can parents give the kid a whipping, after talking is no good, are the teacher communicating with parents on the kid behaviors in school, then we have government in this making laws to where you can’t discipline your own kid for fear of prosecution , and other factors play into today’s parenting to raise a family, cost of living some time causes both parent to both be working all day, or both parent staying home, no job doing what they want to do, and letting the kids do what they want to do. I think that this problem need to get some serious attention from government and parents, because the kids are going to be the one that losses. Remember that the kids are the future .

  6. What I am about it say is from my personal experience and observation.
    This type of behaviour is happening all over the world, not just here. I grew up in Canada in a strict, very disciplined religious home. My parents were hard working, good people and taught me right from wrong. But guess what, that still didn’t stop me from doing a number of "bad things" from an early age. I would lie to my parents and tell them I was going babysitting and then go out with my friends until 3 – 4 in the morning. Drinking, smoking, all sorts of things. I was 13. When they did find out, I was of course was disciplined, but it wasn’t until I was kicked out at 16 that I finally woke up and gained respect for my parents and their rules. I moved back in after about 6 months, however I liked my freedom and I moved out when I turned 17, worked three jobs and graduated high school with honours. I still drank, smoked and other bad things.
    I am now a parent and petrified of what my kids will do! However, I am not going to be as strict as my parents were in hopes that if I speak openly and honestly about the dangers of the world, but still put trust in my kids to make the right decisions, that they will. Of course there is no guarantee, but at the end of the day kids will do what they want. It is up to the parents to educate their children on what is right and wrong. What is acceptable and what is not, but it is NOT the parents fault if the child chooses not to listen.
    So why did I do all those bad things when I was younger if I wasn’t from a broken home, or raised wrong? A number of reasons I’m sure. Peer pressure, wanting to be accepted, wanting to experiment, and hormones! Nothing to do with my parents.
    We as parents need to do our best, but shouldn’t beat ourselves up if our kids turn out less than what we hoped for. We need to love them and support them, however sometimes it might take some "tough love".
    Also, I believe that in some situations a broken home is better than staying in one. If someone is very unhappy with their significant other, they shouldn’t just stay with that person for the good of the children because they might be in a much better position if the parents were not together. I thank the stars everyday that my mom left my dad when I was 5. I turned out just fine, even if I was a little wild in my teens.
    We all should do what we can to help raise our youth. What’s that saying? It take a village to raise a child…?

  7. Responsible parenting. Fathers taking full responsibility for their offspring with mandatory parenting classes for all fathers and mothers expecting.Child support enforcement of a high level.
    Classes in social accountability for every student and adult. Just a start.

  8. I also think its also tied to a major lack of discipline these days. Back when I was growing up, if I really did something wrong, it’s either a tamarind switch or that thick leather belt….

    Today, Kids could probably talk back to their parents, cuss at their parents, scream, shout, throw tantrums, even hit their parents. – and what do parents do about it these days? – only God knows.

    Imagine how far you think that kind of scenario would get you back in the 80’s or 90’s, in my eyes. The child wouldn’t be sitting for a week or more from that red glowing behind.

    Today, I would imagine that they can get away with it, because "some" parents probably let them.

    Honestly… Parents, you’re the biggest disciplinarian, AND MENTORS out there, remember your child mirrors and learns what you do from young, and by all means, don’t spare the damn rod, you got access to tamarind switches, and leather belts… grow a backbone and USE THEM!! I’m sure your own parents did the same for you when you were growing up. Obviously If you love your children you’ll discipline them properly.

    Schools also need to step up the act too, I’ve even heard of kids assaulting teachers, and what does the school do about it, my best guess, expulsion, but what does this mean to the student? my best guess at this age, could possibly, oh sweet, vacation from school, xbox, playstation, etc. etc.. honestly if I had a child do something like that… his or her behind will tanned to well done sweet red perfection, all electronics would be taken away.. screw electronics, I probably wouldn’t even have any to begin with.

    If I ever had a child, I’m gonna give full authority to the Principal to use the same discipline that was available to me when I was going to school back in the day. – Does the schools even discipline like they used to back in the day???

    To some, this may be viewed as abuse… to me this is discipline from when I was growing up, most kids back then were also better behaved, most showed proper respect for their elders.

    But alas, those were the old days, unlike today where rebellion, disrespect, disobedience seems to be the norm and "in-thing".

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