Drinking education begins at home
Underage drinking is an issue that, when brought up, instantly provokes people. Inevitably, the blame game begins. Who is at fault for this problem? Is it parents, for not teaching their children right from wrong, setting a good example and enfor...
Underage drinking is an issue that, when brought up, instantly provokes people. Inevitably, the blame game begins.
Who is at fault for this problem? Is it parents, for not teaching their children right from wrong, setting a good example and enforcing curfews? Is it schools, for inadequate education and allowing talk about drinking and drug use within its doors? Maybe law enforcement, for "picking on them," slapping minors on the hands or not busting enough parties. Perhaps even the community, for failing to provide alternative activities or hangouts for teens?
Whomever you hold responsible for the ongoing problem, they were discussed at the Underage Drinking Prevention Town Hall Meeting Tuesday in Park Rapids.
Sponsored by the Youth Issue Network, the meeting was part of a nationwide effort to educate communities about the dangers of underage drinking and encourage addressing the problem. A panel of eight people, including law enforcement, a probation officer, a teacher and others, discussed not only their views, but parents and students expressed their beliefs as well.
Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said underage drinking not only leads to minor in consuming and drinking and driving charges, but recently, increased assaults, sexual assaults and teen pregnancies.
According to the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey, 29 percent of Park Rapids freshman males had consumed alcohol, compared with 46 percent of freshman females. For seniors, male usage increased to 66 percent, while females drank less at 33 percent.
The statistics go on and on. The rates of binge drinking, riding with drunk drivers, marijuana and methamphetamine use are just as alarming.
Everyone is aware of the problem. But is it happening to your children, friends, family or classmates? Many think it's something other families deal with: the ones whose parents are regulars at the bar, whose grades are less than stellar, who are always seen hanging out downtown at night.
As Hubbard County Sheriff Gary Mills pointed out, underage drinking is seen as almost a rite of passage in the area. Your father did it. His father did it. And they are still alive and well. Heck, they even recall how police used to catch them drinking and send them home with a warning.
But times are different now, and some parents have to face it. There will be consequences for minors when they are caught drinking, whether it be a revoked license, fine, community service, even jail time.
Education is important, and it starts at home. Kids listen; be persistent. And research shows, kids tend to model parents' behavior. Set a good example.
The courts can't play parents for these kids. A fine or other penalty won't always translate to what the possible consequences of their actions could be.
A car crash could kill them, a friend, a loved one. A drinking game could turn into a death wish after a case of beer, a liter of vodka.
When you are young, everything moves fast. You are growing as a person and trying to find out where you belong. Fitting in and being accepted by peers are vital. Driving is the highlight of your teen years. Dying from a car crash or alcohol poisoning is pretty far from your mind when you're having a great time.
And boredom? There are worse places to live. Much worse. This area offers an incredible variety of outdoor activities; most are accessible and inexpensive. There is a bowling alley, theater, restaurants, lakes, a swimming pool. Extra-curriculars at school, church groups. Get a job. Volunteer. The possibilities are endless.
Pine Manor director Rachel Mueller said it best Tuesday, "It's not about boredom. It's lack of enthusiasm. This is Vacationland USA."