Debt: Avoiding the Perils of Plastic

In a country where easy credit can grease the slide into a pool of debt, how do you teach young adults to avoid the financial perils of plastic?

The New York Fed and the New York Bankers Association decided on a simple solution: ask the kids themselves. In the Financial Awareness Video Festival students in the Tri-State area competed to make the best advertisement to educate those aged 17 to 25 about the dangers of debt.

The results: 41 submissions including one where a man is smokes a credit card with the tag line "it doesn't have to be a drug to be addictive," several where the main character ends up homeless from too much debt and one where a credit card is pictured with crutches and bandages and a man discusses nursing his credit back to health.

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I emceed the award event, kicked off by New York Fed President Bill Dudley who argued that credit itself isn't bad, it's the overuse of it. "Without the ability to access debt, all our lives would probably be a little bit more difficult," he said, but people need to understand the risks and obligations of debt.

The judging panel included CNBC's own Suze Orman, Jose Rodrigues from the Tribeca Film Festival, New York actor Ashley Springer and Anthony Santiago, from the Newark Mayor's office.

The winners competed for a $2,500 prize and for their video to run in selected New York City cinemas. The contest came down to a tie and Dudley had to cast the deciding vote.

Enlivening the judging was banter between the actor Springer and the financial expert Orman over what made a good video. "I gave it a 3 (out of 10) and I was being generous," Orman said in response to one video. "Information … has to be accurate. "

But Springer went for the dramatics: "I'm going to be coming at this with completely different (ideas) from Suze over here, I thought it was like emotionally connective, I really felt what he was going through"

In the end, their opposing viewpoints resulted in a tie. What would ultimately be the second place winner, "Track Your Spending" shows a man on a spending spree set to classical music and ends suddenly with a thud and a destitute person splayed out on the street, homeless. The narrator warns "Grab hold of your spending before you lose yourself."

But the winning video, "Repair Your Credit-Repair Your Life," made by a team of students from LaGuardia Community College, was the simple but effective recounting of a man's mistakes with credit and his sacrifices to repair his credit.

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"It's worth it at the end," he concludes, "because new doors open up and new opportunities come along."

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By CNBC's Steve Liesman; Follow him on Twitter: @steveliesman