One bad idea to tackle teen drinking: give them beer
Remember the Alanis Morissette song Ironic?
It was pretty popular around the time I was introduced to alcohol and it also rang in my ears as I read that researchers at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK are advising an “alcohol allowance” to help prevent today’s teens from “falling into …the binge drinking trap”.
That’s right. They believe it’s inherently safer for teenagers to be given alcohol rations from their parents than be left to their own devices, hooking up with friends and buying from pubs or off-licences with a fake ID.
So researchers recommend parents worried about their teenager’s susceptibility to binge drinking should tackle their concerns by giving their kids a few cans of beer each week?
Why don’t they throw in a packet of cigarettes and a joint to smoke later while they’re at it?
Am I the only one who fails to see how these kind of “measures” will actually help kids learn to drink responsibly?
The researchers argue that it’s the “forbidden” element that drives kids to drink and believe that once you encourage it by taking a ‘European’ approach to drinking at home, the whole getting drunk thing will lose it’s appeal.
But it’s not drinking underage that gets teens excited, it’s curiosity and the promise that comes with having a new experience. It’s about enjoyment and being with your friends in a grown-up kind of way.
Think back to the first time you got drunk. What was that about?
I remember being at a friends place when her parents were away. We’d all raced over there with whatever we could grab from our parent’s cabinets and stayed up all night.
If my dad had handed me a nice bottle of vodka on my way out the door, it would have been a whole lot easier to sneak out of the house, but it wouldn’t have made me drink any less or behave any differently.
And imagine how great it would be to to turn up with booze and share it around. Hasn’t anyone considered the possibility of the kids pooling their “rations” together to make it a better night?
That’s not responsibility, that’s stupidity.
Binge drinking is also a very serious issue here in Australia.
DrinkWise is a not-for-profit, independent research and social change agency that has launched a campaign targeting the ‘drink to get drunk culture’ that’s so prevalent in Australia. They’re also focusing on changing young people’s attitudes towards alcohol.
But the worst thing we can do is to treat teenagers like they’re an alien species.
They’re exactly the same as anyone else was at that age and we need to tap into that if we’re going to make a difference.
How about focusing on our own habits when we drink around teenagers and being honest with them about the consequences. As the statistics show they’re already victims of some of alcohol’s worst effects.
The BBC article said thirty percent of UK teenagers have reported being witness to acts of violence while drinking with mates and worse, 12.5 per cent admit to sexual encounters that they’ve since regretted.
Hangovers certainly don’t get any easier and the mistakes you make as a drunken adult can have pretty terrible ramifications on your career or relationships.
Maybe we should be talking about that stuff instead of just handing them a beer.
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