Has your teen (or preteen) avoided beer so far this summer? Are you sure?
The Centers for Disease Control, in a survey of 9th- through 12th-grade students conducted in 2011, reports that 71% of teens have had at least one alcoholic drink at some time in their lives. This, despite the fact that drinking is illegal for kids under age 21 in all 50 states.
Not only that but nearly 40% of the teens said they’d had a drink in the 30 days prior to the survey and 22% said they’d engaged in binge drinking of more than five drinks in a single day sometime in the prior 30 days.
Twenty percent of these teens reported having had their first drink by age 13. Even if your child is a middle-schooler, don’t think that drinking can’t apply to her or to him.
Underage drinking is a problem and it’s likely a problem for your teen or for a teen you know. At the very least, it’s likely your teen has friends who drink fairly frequently and sometimes in great quantities, and it’s likely your teen has felt pressured to drink too. The likelihood that your teen will need to make a decision about drinking sometime during the high school years is pretty strong.
So, does your child know your views on teen drinking?
Remember that drinking at home is not any more legal than drinking at a party somewhere. Only in the state of Wisconsin is drinking with a parent legal for an underage person. In fact, in most states, adults who supply liquor – including beer and wine coolers – to underage kids is liable for fines and even jail time (in my state the fine is $5000 and up to a year in jail for “social hosting”). A home-owner or renter is usually viewed as responsible for what goes on in the home even when he is not present himself.
But the reasons to curtail teen drinking are greater than any desire to obey the law. According to the National Center for Women and Families, teen drinking is linked to poor school performance, personality problems, and depression. Because kids’ brains are developing rapidly during late adolescence (almost as rapidly as during the preschool years), alcohol consumption leads to lasting deficiencies in memory, learning ability, and capacity for good judgment.
Drinking affects teen driving even at half the legal limit. Kids with a .04 blood-alcohol level had difficulty controlling a skid, steering to avoid a crash, and driving an unfamiliar car. A 120-pound girl can reach a .04 level with just one beer, and a 150-pound boy with only one or two beers. The Centers for Disease Control note that 11% of high school students admit to driving after drinking and 29% say they have ridden with a driver who had been drinking.
You know all this. You know that drinking and driving is bad and you know that underage drinking is illegal everywhere. But have you taken a stand on drinking with your own child? Or have you looked the other way, thinking that your situation is different or your child is a special case?
Fully 50% percent of kids who start drinking before age 14 become alcoholics. Kids who wait until age 21 to drink are far less likely to have a problem with alcohol – only 4% of these will be problem drinkers as adults. Make sure your child is one who waits.
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.