Prom and graduation seasons are here again and it is a time for celebration. That means dresses and tuxes, limos for the big night, memories for a lifetime, and of course parties, and therefore the potential for underage drinking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions’ 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, among high school students, during the past 30 days
- 39% drank some amount of alcohol.
- 22% binge drank.
- 8% drove after drinking alcohol.
- 24% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Additionally, the Century Council, an advocacy group, reports that as of 2012, 42% of 12th graders – seniors, who often attend proms – drank within the last month. Overall, during the past month (30 days), 26.4% of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4%.
To illustrate the dangers that accompany the prom season, we need look no further than our recent history. In 2005 for example, during Prom and Graduation Season (April, May, June), 676 students under the age of 21 were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With all the proms, graduations and parties coming up this spring, some call this time of year the “perfect storm” for underage drinking. So, with the prom season comes responsibility.
For parents, talking to your child is your first and best line of defense. To begin, make clear what your expectations for your child’s behavior are. Your child should know and understand that you do not approve of youth their age consuming alcohol. But don’t just tell them what to do. Be sure to listen and ask open-ended questions like, ‘What would you do if you were in the situation?’ or ‘Who would you call?’ ‘How would you handle that?'”. That way you can gauge your child’s preparedness for whatever circumstances the season may present. Additionally, you will be able to provide them guidance on how to handle different situations. You can even role play through different scenarios such as “One night you are out with friends and they are drinking alcohol. They pass the bottle to you. What would you do?” or “A friend who you know has consumed alcohol but wants to drive. What would you do?” Even if the conversation doesn’t go as smoothly as you had hoped, persevere. At the very least your child will know you care.
Parents of young people in Erie County have another issue to contend with this prom and graduation season. There is a new Social Host Law that is now in effect. Under the Social Host Law, adults are held responsible for any underage drinking that takes place on their property. First and second time violators will be fined. If caught a third time, violators will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $1,000 or could end up jailed for up to one year.
To find resources and support to talk to child about underage drinking please visit http://www.talkitover.org/. To report underage drinking, call the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Tipline at 1-800-851-1932. It’s completely anonymous and law enforcement will investigate all reports. For more information, go to http://www.calltipline.org/ .