It’s time to celebrate! Your teen has graduated! It probably feels like you have also achieved an immeasurable feat by supporting them through their high school career. There are so many things in their lives after high school to look forward to, but now is the time to take note of today’s achievements while keeping alcohol responsibility in mind.
1. While an 18 year old may be on their way to a life of independence, their brains and bodies are not yet fully mature. Alcohol can alter sleep patterns, basic motor function, and thoughts and emotions during a time of biological transition and brain development.
2. It’s the law! The 21 minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) law has saved thousands of lives and reduced the number of fatalities in traffic crashes involving an impaired driver under the age of 21 by half (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) since it was enacted at the Federal level in 1984 and in every state by 1988. It is illegal in every state for anyone under the age of 21 to have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while driving.
3. Parents are the leading influence on a teen’s decision to drink, or not to drink, alcohol. It’s imperative that you talk to your teen about alcohol early and often. They need to know where you stand on alcohol, and they need to know you’re paying attention to their actions. You are their role model for healthy, safe behavior – even if they don’t show it or tell you.
4. Since teens cite family and parties at home with or without parents present as their primary source of alcohol, it is important to practice alcohol responsibility in your own home. Through two surveys, the American Medical Association[i] revealed –
a. 26% of parents in the U.S. with children ages 12 to 20 agreed that teens should be able to drink at home when their parents are present.
b. 2 out of 3 teens (ages 13 to 18) said it is easy to get alcohol at home without their parents knowing it.
c. 33% of teens said it’s easy to get alcohol from their parents (knowingly); and 40% say it’s easy to get alcohol from a friend’s parent.
d. 1 in 4 teens have attended a party where underage youth were drinking alcohol in front of parents.
5. You should never serve alcohol to your teen and their underage friends. You may even be liable if you don’t take sufficient measures to stop underage drinking on your premise - even if you’re not there. Learn about your state’s laws on social hosting at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website, Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS).
Check out the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility’s Not in Our House program for tools and resources on how to engage the community in preventing underage drinking and social hosting. For additional research and information on underage drinking, please visit: http://responsibility.org/underage-drinking/underage-drinking-research.
[i] “Teenage Drinking: Key Findings.” A summary of surveys conducted for the American Medical Association by Teen Research Unlimited and Harris Interactive, Spring 2005; as found in Responsibility.org’s Not In Our House Parent/Community Coordinators Guide (pg. 6).