‘Safe’ teen drinking? Here’s why parents shouldn’t facilitate it.
, The Washington Post
“Well, we did it when we were their age.”
"This common refrain, popular among parents with a permissive attitude toward underage drinking, is often coupled with well-intentioned efforts to keep adolescents safe while consuming alcohol: Think encouraging alcohol-imbibing teens to take advantage of ride programs like Uber, to spend the night at a friend’s house, or to drink in one’s own home as opposed to unknown settings. Referred to by social scientists as “harm reduction,” this strategy is more than just ineffective, say experts. It’s helping to fuel an epidemic of teenage binge drinking.
Most parents don’t want their teens to binge drink. But parents who attempt to provide safe parameters — like having teens drink in the basement with friends — increase the likelihood that their offspring will become binge drinkers. “Parents truly think they’re doing the right thing. This is coming from such a good place,” acknowledged Lindsay Squeglia, an alcohol researcher and professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“Most parents don’t feel comfortable or competent having conversations about drinking with their kids,” said Rob Vincent, a public health analyst with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which recently launched a nationwide underage-drinking-prevention campaign:
Talk. They Hear You
Vincent says the campaign is a research-backed response to the question: “How do you help parents have a conversation that’s factually correct and engaging in a way that’s not shaming and straining?” For starters, Vincent said, don’t lecture. Instead, have multiple, small conversations that start early, when kids are about 9 years old — well before they’re likely to start experimenting with alcohol."