The Dangers of Teen Drinking
Is teenage drinking a problem?
A lot of parents think it is a normal part of growing up for teenagers to drink. Some parents even allow their teenagers to drink once in a while as long as they do it at home. When we think about alcoholism, we tend to think about adults binging, not kids experimenting. Even television shows and movies show how normal it is for teenagers to drink—at parties, with friends, or just hanging out.
The truth is that teenagers are still developing physically, and are highly susceptible to developing alcohol dependence problems. We know that drinking alcohol impairs everyone’s judgment. But teenagers who drink are hit especially hard because the last part of the adolescent brain to develop involves areas of judgment and restraint. As well, alcohol can permanently affect a teen’s developing brain.
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What’s the harm of a beer or two?
Teens aren’t just drinking a beer every once in awhile—in fact, of those who are drinking, many are binge drinking. According to a study release in 2007 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers prefer hard alcohol to other kinds of alcoholic beverages.
Liquor is easier to disguise because you can pour it into another drink, as opposed to drinking beer. It is easier for teenagers to sneak hard alcohol from their parents because it is harder to spot some missing vodka out of a bottle than it is to notice that entire bottles of beer have disappeared. As well, younger drinkers might prefer the taste of mixed drinks to beer. There is also the idea of “feeling it faster” when you drink hard alcohol. Teenagers drink to get drunk.
Your Teen’s Impaired Judgment
Allowing your children, and their friends, to drink in your home might make you feel as though you are limiting and controlling your teen’s experimentation, but the same physical harm is occurring as if the drinking happened without your knowledge. Since you are supervising the situation, you can stop anyone from driving or making other poor judgment choices at the time. But what happens when your teen is drinking outside of the home?
First of all, you aren’t there to make sure bad decisions aren’t made. The list of things that could happen is endless, but here are a few:
Drinking and Driving: Even if your kid knows that it isn’t safe to drink and drive, impaired judgment could enable your teen to get behind the wheel after “a few drinks.” Most people, teens included, know when they are ridiculously drunk, but not everyone realizes when they’ve passed into the buzzed feeling. But buzzed driving is drunk driving.
Riding with Drunk Drivers: Maybe your teen isn’t the one getting behind the wheel, but a drinking teenager doesn’t have the capacity to judge whether a friend can safely drive or not. Your kid has just as much risk of being in a serious, even fatal, accident from riding in the car with someone who has been drinking as if they were behind the wheel themselves.
Sex: Alcohol impaired teenagers give into peer pressure a lot easier than those who haven’t been drinking. As well, people who are drinking tend to do a lot of things they wouldn’t usually do. Not only might your teen end up having sex, but the chances of correctly practicing safe sex when alcohol is involved plummets.
Smoking & Drugs: Along the same lines of teens doing things they wouldn’t normally do if they weren’t drinking, is the fact that your kid might decide to try something new while under the influence of alcohol. From starting to smoke, which is very addictive, to trying illegal drugs, like marijuana or even Meth, drinking can be a portal to trying out other things.
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Drinking is Cool
Teenagers, and even children, see drinking portrayed as a normal thing that cool people do. Popular television shows, like the current hit Gossip Girl, show teenagers drinking alcohol and engaging in sexual activities on almost every episode. Movies like American Pie. Dazed and Confused, Sixteen Candles, Crazy/Beautiful, and Eurotrip (just to name a few) show teens drinking, and often getting out of control.
These movies tend to have happy endings, or are even funny, but imagine your teens actually out in the world doing these things.
What Do You Do?
Communicating with your teen is very important—talk to your kids about the effects of alcohol. Sure, you don’t want to be the stodgy, uncool parent, but you aren’t trying to tell your kids they can’t or shouldn’t drink ever. You simply need to make it clear that it is not safe for a teenager to drink alcohol because no matter how grown up teenagers feel, their bodies and minds are still developing.
Be aware of what your kids are doing, where they are, and who they are with. Strict parents get a bad rep, but the strict parents are the ones who know what is going on in the lives of their kids.