DO teenagers at Schoolies know what love means?
Eight young Australians associated with Sydney-based ministry, The Culture Project, are about the find out when they join the mass crowds at Surfers Paradise this week.
Headed by former Gold Coast man Christopher Da Silva, The Culture Project team will be asking teens questions about love, sex and relationships while Schoolies party on the beach.
It is the second year the Beach Outreach has gone to Schoolies, with the primary aim to protect teenagers from the heartbreak of damaging sexual encounters.
“Our purpose is to strike up a conversation with Schoolies on the beach, and ask them what they think of love,” Mr Da Silva said.
“We talk about what’s on their minds, the hook-up culture, but many have never heard a vision of authentic love.”
Mr Da Silva said last year’s outreach revealed a growing trend of teenagers engaging in random sexual misconduct.
“The hook-up culture is quite bad,” he said.
“More people were talking about their friends, or friends of friends, who were getting molested.”
Mr Da Silva hoped their presence at Schoolies would get young people to think about the meaning of sex before making a regretful decision.
“They might not be willing to change their life right then and there, but many leave the conversation with an open mind,” he said.
Increased sexual activity among teenagers is not just a concern for The Culture Project.
An Australian travel insurance company responded to rising fears among parents by providing a Schoolies Survival Kit.
The kit, by Travel Insurance Direct, includes condoms, a drink spike test, lip balm, sunscreen and a beach ball.
A TID travel safety expert said the condoms were provided as “protection from disease” rather than contraception.
“Many parents are full of dread because of the reputation of Schoolies, and we wanted to arm them with information about how to broach the subject in a way that opens dialogue rather than closes it, and arms parents with suggestions for ways to minimise risk,” the company said.
“It also has advice to them on how to cope with this unusual stage in their life, transitioning from guardian-parents to mentor-parents.”
But Mr Da Silva questioned the need to give condoms to young people at Schoolies, saying it constituted “giving up” on their abilities to make moral decisions about sex.
“I feel a lot of people in general have given up on high school kids of today,” he said.
“You hear about these sexting stories, and think it must just be what young people do, that’s how they are going to act.
“I think they do have a certain view of young people and their expectations of them are lowered.
“They need to be given a chance.
“They haven’t had the truth imparted to them, but they do have the capacity for virtue and to love the right way at the right time.
“We’re trying to give them that chance.”