Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April is Alcohol Awareness Month: Let's Talk About Prom

Written by Joy Spencer | joy.spencer@oregon.gov

It’s prom season, and that means it’s a good time for parents to check in and make sure they are communicating their expectations about underage drinking to their teens. Unless you’ve explicitly talked about the issue, don’t make the mistake of assuming your child knows what you expect or that you would disapprove.

Prom culture has definitely changed over the years...with everything from "promposals" to dance floor selfies. However, one thing remains the same - teens want to have a good time. So, whether you're a concerned parent or a teen who's counting down the days until the anticipated event, these prom night statistics are something to think about. 

Teens are more likely to be involved in a car accident during April and June
Accidents are the number one cause of death for young people aged 12 to 19, and those involving motor vehicles are the most common. Statistics show roughly a third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June, which is considered the peak of prom season.

Drugs and alcohol more common on prom night
For many students, prom is one of the highlights of their high school career but for others, it's an invitation to get intoxicated. An 2014 survey from AAA of teens aged 16 to 19 found that 41 percent said it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night.

Teens underestimate danger of driving while intoxicated
Despite the fact that more teens are involved in fatal traffic accidents related to alcohol during prom season, the majority of high school aged students don't seem to recognize how dangerous it actually is. A survey of nearly 2,300 juniors and seniors found that just 20 percent believe being on the roads on prom night is dangerous. Six percent of those surveyed admitted to driving under the influence after prom. Even though most teens learn about the perils of driving under the influence during Driver's Ed, their fear of getting into trouble with their parents appears to outweigh the risk. According to AAA, 84 percent of teens surveyed said their friends would be more likely to get behind the wheel after drinking than to call home for a ride (if they believed they'd get in trouble for using alcohol). Another 22 percent said they'd ride in a car with someone who was impaired instead of calling their parents. 

Binge drinking on prom night
Having just one or two drinks is bad enough, but the majority of teens are downing substantially more on prom night. According to 54 percent of teens who admitted to drinking during or after the prom said they consumed four or more alcoholic beverages.

Peer pressure contributes to drug and alcohol use
Feeling accepted by your friends often leads teens to do things they normally wouldn't, including drinking or using drugs on prom night. Data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Chrysler found that nearly 75 percent of teens felt pressured to use alcohol while another 49 percent said their friends encouraged them to try drugs during prom.

Good news...your influence still counts
Once kids hit the teenage years, they seem to tune out just about everything their parents have to say, but moms and dads can get through with a little persistence. According to another survey from MADD, teens whose parents view underage drinking as totally unacceptable are 80 percent less likely to drink compared to their peers whose parents are more lenient about it.

What are some things you can do to help your teen have a fun but safe time at prom?
  • Discuss rules for the celebrating: your own rules, the school rules, and the consequences for violating the rules.
  • Ask your teen for a complete itinerary for the evening, including where they'll be going before, during and after prom. If you have graduates, make sure you know where and when they will be celebrating. 
  • Take inventory of the alcohol in your home and secure it, if needed. In a survey by the American Medical Association, two out of three teens aged 13-18 said that it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. One-third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, which increases to 40 percent when it is from a friend's parent. And one in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents. 
  • If you are hosting a post-prom or grad party, remember it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors. Some parents feel that hosting a house party where alcohol is served to minors is safer because they can control it. Allowing these parties is illegal, even with other parents’ consent. Hosts may be held responsible for consequences that result. Injuries and car accidents after such parent-hosted parties remind us that no parent can completely control the actions of intoxicated youth, during or after a party. And the main message children hear is that drinking illegally is okay. 
  • If your teen is riding in a limo, check the company’s policy on allowing alcohol in the vehicle. 
  • Do not rent hotel rooms or vacation rental properties for your teens. 
  • Communicate with other parents about prom-graduation plans. 
  • Reinforce that they should get help if they, or their friends are in trouble. Be available to provide a timely and safe ride home if needed. Let them know that they should call you if they need a ride home or get into a situation they know isn’t safe -- no matter what time it is, no matter where they are. 
  • Remind your teen that everyone has a camera these days. With security cameras, phone cameras and video cams everywhere, it is important your child realizes that they shouldn't do anything that might cause them embarrassment by ending up on Facebook or YouTube. Unfortunately, what ends up on the internet and social media, stays on the internet and can be shared with hundreds of people very quickly. Not to mention their future plans for college could be jeopardized. A college acceptance can be revoked for illegal behavior and for getting expelled from high school.
Just remember, if your teen breaks any rules on prom night make sure that they trust that he or she can call you, and that you will come and get him or her no matter what, with no questions asked. Assuring them that that his or her safety is what is most important in the end.