Underage drinking has been a rite of passage and test of rebellion for generations, but these days kids are doing more than just sneaking a quick sip or slamming a beer. These days teens — and even pre-teens (those tweens)– are playing drinking games and are really going for that full blackout drunk thrill. It’s more of a numbing than a buzz. And there is heightened danger in binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks). Young bodies and brains can’t tolerate the high alcohol levels. If your child or his friends drive while drinking things could easily turn into a tragedy. This I know. I’ve had three friends teenage sons die in car accidents from drinking.
This is the fifth in a series about Risky Teen Behaviors I reported on the Today show recently. I hope every parent reads these stats. Please pass them on.
Stat About Teens
• 2007 research from the University of Pittsburgh found that about 7 percent of fourth-graders (are you reading this!@, more than 8 percent of fifth-graders and about 13 percent of sixth-graders had drunk beer, liquor, orwine coolers in the past year.
• Three out of every four students (75%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school
• About two fifths of students (41%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips( by eighth grade
• Research shows that young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life
Signs to Look For:
• Blood shot eyes
• Smells like alcohol (Hug your child when he walks in the door. Better yet, move your bed by the door so you won’t miss him when he comes in).
• Slurred words
• Wobbly walking
• Comes home chewing gum or sucking mints (Big warning clue. If he walks out your door with a mint, that’s fine. He’s off to impress his friends. If he comes home chewing gum ask yourself WHY? He doesn’t need to impress you. So could he be covering up something?)
• Sleeping in (all teens do or try…but is he sleeping in to cure the hangover)
• Check your liquor supply. Mark the vodka bottles with a marking pen. Are you seeing a decrease? Count those beer bottles. Keep tabs! By the way– you are libel. If your child’s friends are at your house drinking and God forbid anything happens, you are libel.
• Listen for drinking games in your child’s conversation. Does he know any of these popular games kids are playing these days? Century Club (100 shots of beer in 100 minutes), Power Hour (60 shots in 60 minutes), Quarters (bounce a quarter off the table and into a shotglass. If the quarter goes into the glass the shooter chooses someone to drink. The shooters continues to play until they do not make the quarter in the cup. Play then proceeds to the next shooter, Flippy Cup What Parents Can Do
• Talk to your child about drinking. Not only is it illegal, it can be addictive. Drinking at a young age can form life-long habits. According to the University of Pittsurgh Research, the prime time to prevent child alcohol use is when kids are in fifth grade.
• Know your child’s friends. Most teens don’t drink alone. Watch out for kids. Take away their keys — PLEASE — if you smell just an inkling of alcohol on their breath. Drive them home. (I still have my son’s friends thanking me five years after the fact for that one).
• Talk to your child’s friend’s parents. Get on board with other parents. Get on the same page. You should make sure certain parents aren’t providing your child a haven to drink if you don’t agree with it. And don’t assume they aren’t. (Enough said on that one, but I get so upset with these parents who think it’s cool to be their kids’ friends best friends and serve them alcohol).
• Check your own liquor supply. Your child should not be able to purchase alcohol at any law-abiding store. Be aware they may be stealing from your own cabinet. Talk to older siblings. They should not be purchasing for their younger brother or sister.
• Get on board as a community. Find and create SAFE fun things for teens to do. I’ve spent hours recently talking to teens across the country at focus groups. The big complaint from coast to coast from kids: “There’s nothing for us to do.” They’re right.
Research shows that young people who start drinking before the age of fifteen are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life. Beaware that teen girls are now binge drinking at almost the same rate as teen boys.
REALITY CHECK: How many of those statistics about teen drinking surprised you? Get savvy! To read more research go online to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA).