The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) sponsored research in 2011 which took a look at how teen use of social media could be influencing them toward drug or alcohol use. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are part of everyday life for most teens. It’s a new medium for an old problem. Could they be normalizing risky behaviors like drug and alcohol use for teens? The CASA study was not able to control for all outside factors, but still suggested that parents be aware of how social networking sites may be influencing their children.
The study surveyed 1,000 teens (12 – 17 years) and parents about social media habits, exposure to drugs and alcohol as well as experimentation. The findings seemed to parallel other studies meaning that the figures are not outside the normative range for the teen demographic – social media alone cannot be blamed. Nevertheless, CASA wants parents to become attuned to what is to be seen and read on social sites. Here’s what they found:
- 70 percent of teens interacted with a social site on a daily basis
- 40 percent said they’d seen pictures of friends and others using drugs or alcohol when visiting the sites
- 26 percent of the teens said they themselves had consumed alcohol
- 13 percent of the teens said they tried marijuana
- 10 percent reported having smoked cigarettes
The majority of teens use social media and while they are there they are seeing friends and other young people engaging in risky behaviors. There are too many devices and too many opportunities to access social media once outside of the house to make these sites totally off-limits. CASA suggests that a better approach is to talk with teens about what they see and read when they visit social sites.
It can be helpful to begin the discussion by acknowledging that social networking sites are not all bad. The interactions may not be face to face, but they are still worthwhile. Social media interactions can benefit everyone, including the elderly. However, not everyone uses a good thing in a good way.
Although you can’t always keep your teens from being exposed to wrong and dangerous behavior, you can still talk to them about it. You can go to scholarly studies with your teen and read about the potential health hazards of drinking and using drugs. You can talk about the consequences of illegal behavior. You can emphasize your values as parents and a as a family.
BC Rocks is a county-wide initiative designed to help parents create safe places for kids to gather and have a good time. The program invites parents to sign a public statement promising that their home is alcohol-free and well-supervised. Believe it or not, teens that see their parents taking action against underage drinking are influenced – in a positive way. Why should you allow all of the visuals to work against you? Stand up and let your teen see how important protecting him/her is to you.
For a lot of teens, drinking alcohol can be a way to fit in. Unsure of themselves and insecure about their ability to be accepted, some teens will decide to drink. The cruel irony of this decision is that, in some school environments, the teen winds up feeling even more ostracized and alone than the kids who don’t go ahead and drink. And once the teen feels apart from the crowd, grades begin to suffer too.
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the problem is most pronounced in small schools where few students drink and where there are strong social cliques. For the teen that drinks, he or she feels like part of the group only when they are with other drinking students. The rest of the time, using alcohol makes them feel lonely and isolated from their peers.
The study found that when teens feel like they don’t fit in with other students it shows up as bad grades. Even smart and very bright students find it difficult to overcome the social stress of not feeling included and fitting in. In fact, the researchers, who carefully tracked grades, discovered at least a one point drop in GPA when a teen was struggling with social issues.
Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Michigan analyzed data gathered through the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – a study that is considered to be the most far-reaching study of high school teens to date. Information on nearly 8,300 teenagers from 126 schools around the nation was used. Researchers factored out issues such as race, gender, ethnicity and social/economic status.
The results of this analysis revealed that drinking created more social anxiety than it cured and that stress led to a lower academic performance, most particularly in small school with tight-knit friendship groups. The researchers said that their findings don’t indicate that teens who drink would fare better in schools with cliques accepting of drinking. Instead, they warn that some school environments which may seem positive (e.g.: small schools with anti-drinking attitudes) are not necessarily helpful environments.
Social-emotional development and academic performance are clearly intertwined. So helping students to develop positive social interactions can actually improve a teen’s learning and school performance. Parents need to be attentive to both aspects of their teen’s development.
Here in BuchananCounty the St Joseph Youth Alliance wants to help parents create positive social environments. The program BC Rocks encourages parents of teens to sign a public pledge to keep their house that kind of environment. Parents who sign the BC Rocks pledge are giving their word of honor to keep alcohol away from teens and to provide adequate supervision when teens gather in their home. We encourage all parents to sign up and help kids find a better place to fit in.
The latest fashions, the hippest music, the newest expressions – teens keep up with it all. YouTube has become a fast-track for sharing cutting edge information among teens. While much of YouTube sharing is relatively harmless, it’s also a place where bad ideas go viral. A prime example of this is the popularity of
videos showing kids how to inhale, or smoke, alcohol.
Smoking alcohol sounds impossible but, essentially, instead of swallowing it, teens are encouraged to breathe it in. The YouTube videos with over a million hits show viewers how to pour a small amount of hard liquor into an empty two liter soda bottle and then pump the bottle full of air. Viewers are then encouraged to inhale the alcohol vapor for a practically instantaneous buzz.
These videos are spreading all sorts of misinformation like “smoking alcohol under age 21 years is not illegal”, “no one will be able to smell alcohol on your breath” and “smoking alcohol has fewer calories than drinking”. Every one of those claims is false.
For starters, parents and police officers will be able to smell alcohol on the breath because when a person smokes alcohol it goes directly into the lungs. If it’s in your lungs, it’s on your breath. But that is only lie number one.
When a person drinks alcohol there is a metabolization process that takes around 20 minutes before the alcohol fully enters the bloodstream. Inhaling alcohol fumes bypasses that slow process and shoots the alcohol more quickly into the bloodstream. The toxic alcohol fumes are sent almost directly to the
brain, and it gets there through the bloodstream. If it’s in your blood, it will show up on a blood test. Lie number two.
Lie number three is the claim that smoking alcohol has fewer calories. Doctors tell us that alcohol in the bloodstream doesn’t care how it got there. Smoke it or drink it – alcohol has calories.
The fourth lie is that smoking alcohol before you turn 21 is legal. This is false. Consuming alcohol in any way before age 21 is against the law.
Teens are lured in by the thrill of feeling drunk instantly, but the dangers of alcohol are also sped up. Normally, when a person over-drinks their body uses several built-in protections. The person gets sleepy or passes out – this keeps them from drinking more. Sometimes the body deals with too much
alcohol by throwing up. But when alcohol is inhaled all of these self-protective mechanisms are bypassed. That means that alcohol poisoning can happen much faster.
It doesn’t take much alcohol to do grave harm when teens are breathing in the fumes. This highlights the importance of knowing that when your teen is at another person’s house there is no alcohol available and there is plenty of adult supervision.
BC Rocks is one way parents in Buchanan County can work together to create a safer environment for teens. By signing a pledge to make your home alcohol-safe and well-supervised you give other parents peace of mind. You also protect teens from their own trendiness.
What is the strongest factor influencing whether or not your teen will drink alcohol? A study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points to the attitudes of friends as the number one determining influence on when and whether a young person drinks.
The study surveyed 820 teenagers ages 14 – 17 from six separate locations across the nation. The majority of the teens came from high-risk situations but fewer than 50 percent had an alcoholic mother or father. The researchers looked at the age each teen had taken their first drink of alcohol and then looked at other contributing factors such as degree of social skills, whether their closest friends drank, family history of alcohol abuse, and assessments for disruptive behavior (i.e.: were the teens natural troublemakers).
Researchers found that close to half (four out of 10) of the teens who drank at an early age also reported having best friends who were drinkers. Compared to all the other examined risk factors, having a close friend who drinks makes it twice as likely that a young person will drink.
There is a good news/bad news angle to the friendship factor however. Research conducted in 2012 underlined the powerful influence of close friends, but it went a step beyond to assert that even the parents of close friends can influence a teenager.
This means that if a best buddy has a permissive parent, drinking may be encouraged. It also means that friends with strict, tee-totaling parents can also exert some influence. That particular study found teens whose friends had authoritative mothers were significantly less apt to drink, smoke tobacco or use marijuana compared to kids with permissive moms and dads.
The importance of delaying a person’s first experience with drinking cannot be over-emphasized. Drinking before age 14 is a risk factor for later adult alcohol dependency in numerous studies. The medical and physical risks of drinking for teens are a litany of reasons why young people should wait to drink alcohol. But if friends can exert this much influence over a teen’s decision to drink, what is a parent to do?
First, keep in mind that the parents of friends share in the best friend influence factor. You can be a positive influence on your teen’s friends in discouraging early alcohol use. Second, just because parents don’t have the strongest voice, doesn’t mean that they have no voice. Moms and dads should talk with their teens about their feelings on alcohol use.
Finally, the Youth Alliance has developed BC Rocks as a way for parents to connect with other like-minded moms and dads who will be that second tier influence away from underage drinking. Check out the BC Rocks participation pages to see if your teen is headed to a home where the adults are standing tall and speaking against underage drinking by refusing to turn a blind eye.
Many will recognize the acronym MADD as the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The group is actively involved in educating teens and parents about the dangers of underage drinking and, as their name suggests, grew out of the grief from losing a child to an alcohol-related traffic fatality. But MADD is
behind research which shows that kids who drink before age 21 face many more risks than drunk driving.
The organization, together with Nationwide Insurance, sponsored examination of data from the National Traffic and Highway Safety Transportation Administration, the FBI and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which had been collected in 2010. The study found that 68 percent of underage drinking-related deaths do not happen on the highway. That’s right, underage drinking does raise the chances that a young person will be injured or killed in an automobile accident, but according to the research, 32 percent of the deaths were traffic fatalities but many more dangers took young lives.
The vast majority of alcohol-related deaths among minors weren’t from car crashes; they were murders (30 percent), suicide (14 percent), alcohol poisoning (9 percent) and other (15 percent).
In 2011 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 25 percent of adolescent’s ages 12 – 20 had been drinking during the month prior. Some of those kids were able to buy their alcohol illegally. The astonishing fact was that 21.4 percent of these minors didn’t lie to buy alcohol; they simply got it from an adult in their life. Many times it was a parent or guardian who purchased the alcohol for the young person.
Parents or adults who provide alcohol to kids and then keep them from driving need to be aware of the dangers still involved with underage drinking. Parents need to do more than take the car keys away if they think their kids are drinking. For starters, parents should never provide underage children with alcohol. As the MADD report shows, drunk driving is just one of many deadly risks associated with underage drinking.
The two strongest influences on young people come from peers and parents. Parents may think that kids only listen to their friends, but that is not the case. Even teens that have been drinking and are about to head off to college can be influenced by a parent who takes the time to sit down with them and explain the various dangers associated with drinking. MADD offers parents a handbook entitled Power of Parents to help moms and dads have these all-important conversations.
In this area, BC Rocks is a strategy to protect underage kids from exposure to alcohol. Parents who sign up for BC Rocks let others know that their home is one where kids will not be offered alcohol. Underage drinking is not inevitable. The risks are too many and too great for parents to give up without trying. Homes that agree not to offer alcohol to minors are one way to keep teens safe from the dangers that can be associated with underage drinking.
The problem of underage drinking was once a male-dominated problem. Boys once outranked girls when it came to experimenting with alcohol before age 21. Not so much anymore. Today there is a lot more parity between the sexes when it comes to underage drinking.
Today more than half of all kids ages 12 – 20, boys and girls alike, report having tried alcohol. You might be aware that underage drinking is an issue, but just how far underage these kids are may surprise you. According to reports, boys are trying out alcohol as early as age 11 and girls are not far behind, having their first drinking experiences around age 13. There are a host of reasons why this is dangerous, but perhaps one of the greatest is that kids who start drinking by age 14 face a six-fold higher chance of becoming alcohol-addicted as adults.
There are young people who face higher risks for drinking than others. Race is one risk factor with Native American and Alaskan Indian children facing a greater chance of future alcohol addiction compared to children of other races. Other risk factors for alcohol-related problems include the following:
Gender: Males are more likely than females to become addicted to alcohol. While young men often drink in response to peer pressure, young women usually drink in response to family problems.
Family History: If a close family member has an alcohol addiction, then a child faces a four times greater risk of becoming addicted themselves compared to youths without a family history.
Environment: The risk for alcohol abuse and addiction increases in measure with how easy it is for a kid to get alcohol. If alcohol is readily available in the home or through friends who approve, the risks increase proportionally.
Statistics from 2009 show that close to 60 percent of boys over the age of 12 are currently consuming alcohol. Close to 50 percent of over 12 year old girls are currently drinking, according to the same report. But in the youngest section of that demographic, the 12 – 17 year olds, boys and girls are drinking at practically the same rate; 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. Young boys and girls are trying alcohol and putting themselves at risk for all sorts of other problems.
Underage drinkers face an increased risk for becoming depressed or anxious, being involved in a violent crime (often as the victim), having numerous sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex. Kids who don’t think they will be part of the group who makes unwise choices after drinking need to know that among 15 – 20 year olds, one-third of all driving deaths involves alcohol and alcohol is involved in nearly half of the drownings.
BC Rocks is a local effort to help parents make sure that their teen is socializing in an adult-supervised, alcohol-free environment. By participating in BC Rocks parents are taking a stand against underage drinking and doing what they can to minimize young people’s exposure to alcohol. Delaying alcohol exposure can reduce many of the risks associated with underage drinking for boys and girls alike.
Do you think that by allowing your teenager to have alcohol at home you can de-mystify alcohol and safely monitor its use? Or have you heard that that if teens are allowed to drink under your roof that they will not be as likely to abuse alcohol later on? These are common myths that many parents have heard and believe.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org wants to help parents get the facts about teens and drinking, including teens who are permitted by their parents to drink in the house. To help parents better understand the consequences of serving alcohol to minors the Partnership at Drugfree.org has joined together with The Treatment Research Institute to create an interactive website where moms and dads can access research-based information.
Some parents fall into the trap of believing that permitting kids to drink at home de-mystifies alcohol making it less likely that they will want to irresponsibly drink as they grow up. In fact, the reverse is true. Serving alcohol to minors makes it more likely (not less) that teens will drink as they grow up.
Other parents worry that holding a tight line against drinking will encourage rebellious drinking by their teen as soon as they leave home post-high school. In fact, studies show that teens who think their parents have a permissive attitude toward alcohol drinking often drink more than kids from homes with stricter attitudes against alcohol.
Parents who decide to serve alcohol to their teens sometimes point to Europe where families commonly serve alcohol even to young family members. These parents should be aware that doing so does not insulate kids against problem drinking later on. In fact, in Europe, where alcohol is more free-flowing, kids get drunk sooner and experience higher rates of alcohol abuse as they get older compared to kids growing up in American families.
The facts show that it is neither safe nor preventive to serve alcohol to teens, even at home. In fact, it is illegal to do so. Parents can look at the Drugfee.org website to find out what legal liabilities exist in their state.
Here in St Joseph, Missouri the Youth Alliance is sponsoring a program titled BC Rocks. BC stands for Buchanan County and the program encourages parents to go on record as a home where alcohol will not be served to minors. Parents who allow their teens to spend time at someone else’s home can look up the family’s name on the BC Rocks registry to see if it is an alcohol-free environment.
Serving alcohol to underage teenagers does nothing to prevent alcohol abuse. The facts show that making it clear to teens that alcohol use will not be permitted does work to prevent abuse. Youth Alliance has formed the BC Rocks campaign to help parents to stand together against teen alcohol use.