Alcohol has been America’s greatest pastime since the beginning of our great nation. The social lubricant has been woven into the thread of society as an imperative factor in making friends and building relationships. For the non-alcoholic, it is still expected to drink at a dinner party or a work event. My dad had a beer with dinner every night since I could remember, up until the day I got sober. I’ve never been to a party without alcohol present and I’ve never watched a sports event without seeing ads for alcohol on TV. Does this bother me as an alcoholic? No, but it reminds me of how drinking has become simply part of being an adult. The idea may seem harmless but teen drinking is on the rise and not enough is being done to stop it. The question is what can we do about it? Teen drinking has become the norm and it only makes sense. Drinking has become a regular part of adulthood and who wants to be an adult the most? You guessed it, teens. Teenagers want more than anything to grow up and drinking often provides an avenue for them to feel more “mature.”
teen drinking: The Facts
- Each year about 4,300 people under age 21 die from injuries due to alcohol consumption
- Approximately 2,000 people under the age of 21 from driving drunk or getting in a car with a drunk driver.
- More deaths occur from teen drinking each year than teen drug use
- 47% of adolescent sexual assault victims seeking treatment from a Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention Center reported that alcohol and/or drugs were used just before the assault
- 49% of the adolescent sexual assault victims seeking treatment in an emergency department reported that alcohol and/or illegal substances were used by the perpetrator and/or victim immediately before the assault.
- People who drink alcohol for long periods of time are more likely to get cancer, for example, beginning at an early age and continuing into adulthood
A recent study in Australia published in the journal BMC Public Health was conducted on 2,800 Australian teens ages 12-17. The study clearly showed just how influential the parents take on teen drinking can be.
“One of the major messages from our study is that parents have more influence on their teenagers’ decisions regarding alcohol than they probably realize. Parental behavior and attitudes towards alcohol really do make a difference, and can help prevent children from drinking at an early age.” says lead author Jacqueline Bowden, behavioral scientist and Manager of Population Health Research at SAHMRI, and researcher with the School of Psychology, University of Adelaide.
Students were less likely to drink if their parents showed disapproval of underage drinking
While genetic alcoholism will show up regardless of parenting, experimenting with teen drinking can be greatly influenced by the way parent portray alcohol. You may think “teens will be teens” but this study shows that teens have a much higher regard for their parents than originally assumed. All the information is not getting to teenagers and I personally think part of this is for fear that bringing it up will trigger a rebellion effect. It may seem obvious that parents disapprove of teen drinking but a lot of parents have it in their mind that teen drinking will occur with or without approval. We see here that this is not always the case.
Students who thought of alcohol to be easily accessible were more likely to drink
All things in parenthood start with setting a good example. Excessive alcohol use is known to cause an excess in chaos at home and damage to childhood development. Even the regularity of alcohol in the home can create a very accessible and acceptable image for alcohol to teens. I know personally, the first drink I had was a sip of my dad’s beer. My second drink was Brandi out of the bottle that I crawled up on the counter to pull out of the top shelf in our kitchen. It was accessible in our home and that’s all I needed at 12 years old.
Students who had extra spending money were more likely to drink
Another issue that I am very pleased to find in this article was the fact that students who had extra spending money were more likely to drink. Teen drinking consists of the will and the means. Those who had the will and financial means to purchase it did. I think this is really important. Do you know where your teenager’s allowance is going? I remember switching from public to private school because my parents thought it would be more sheltered and I would be less likely to drink. Well, this backfired when I was around teenagers who were getting their hands on better alcohol in larger quantities.
Only 28% of students were aware of a link between alcohol and cancer
Teens want to be healthy and happy. They have dreams about growing up and it is not always in a realistic mindset. They are conditioned to believe that alcohol is harmless because every adult in their life is doing it and may not have negative consequences. Talking to teens about the risks involved with consuming alcohol has proven to take some effect in their decisions. While the final decision to have their first beer is out of their parents hands, the least we can do is give all the information so they are capable of weighing their options properly. Do I think we can stop teen drinking simply by giving a lesson with stats and facts? No. Do I think a lot of teenagers have the intelligence to avoid things they truly believe to be damaging to their life? Absolutely.
This article counteracts the idea that “teens will be teens” and teen drinking is out of our hands as parents. No parent wants to believe that their kid is doing something as dangerous as drinking and driving or binge drinking on the weekend. The best thing we can do to prevent this from happening is giving our teens the information they need to make educated decisions while setting a good example ourselves.