Parents remain the first line of defense against underage drinking
Summer break is the opportune time for teens to enjoy some relaxation.
But, studies show summer months are also the peak season for experimentation.
“Idle hands are the devils workshop," said Trooper Kevin Cook of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Trooper Cook says law enforcement is seeing an increase in underage drinking on Alabama roads. He says lack of supervision during summertime and peer pressure both play a part.
“When you get a bunch of teenagers together, and they get their friends, and they get this peer pressure and it just focuses in on them and makes people, actually the teenagers, make unwise decisions,” said Trooper Cook.
The statistics for underage drinking are sobering. By the end of this summer, more than 900,000 teens nationwide will have their first drink of alcohol. That’s about 1 in 45 teens.
Experts say prevention starts at home and conversation is key.
“Parents can do something that is so very simple that we grew up doing and that’s having family meals together at least four times a week,” said Susan Trawick, Executive Director at Dothan-Houston County Substance Abuse Partnership.
Trawick says parents should also check their teen’s social media accounts, lock up any alcohol or drugs in the home, and add a healthy dose of structure to their teen’s summer.
"Whether it's chores, whether it's baby-sitting, whether it's a WIRED Christian church camp - whatever it is, make sure your child is involved in activities that are positive and know where your child is."
Getting to know your teen’s friends and monitoring banking activity is equally important.
"Your teenage child said they bought $15 in gas, yet it wasn't spent on gas, you need to investigate ok what did they spent that money on," said Trooper Cook. "But most important just be involved in their life, be actively involved."
Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.
Parents may find the following tips From ALEA helpful during the summer break and throughout the year:
1. Talk with your teen – and listen to them: Ask about plans before they leave home to meet friends, to attend parties, to “hang” with their buddies. Insist they inform you if those plans change. Teens who do not have adult supervision are far more likely to consume alcohol and/or tobacco.
2. Monitor banking activity: More and more teens have their own bank accounts and debit cards. Frequently check their accounts for unusual activity. If he or she spent $15 at a gas station but didn’t purchase gas, ask about the purchase.
3. Inspect their wallets, purses and backpacks: Look for fake IDs.
4. If you have alcohol and/or tobacco products at home, keep them locked up if possible: Closely monitor your inventory, and keep an eye out for missing products.
5. Get to know your teen’s friends and their friends’ parents: Make sure your teen isn’t obtaining alcohol and/or tobacco products from their friends’ parents.
6. Look for changes in behavior: Have you noticed a difference in your teen’s temperament or disposition? Are they sleeping more or less? Are they hanging around a different crowd? (During the school year, have you noticed declining grades?)
7. Know the law: In Alabama, you must be 21 or older to consume alcoholic beverages, and 19 and older to use tobacco products.
To report a business that is willfully selling these products to minors, please contact your local law enforcement.