Underage Drinking Is A Problem, But Not An Inevitable One

By Jeremy Brown

Last month Youth Resources and Youth First collaborated to host a Town Hall Meeting with conversation focused on the problem of underage drinking.

Community figureheads and current high school students discussed why underage drinking is so prevalent and factors that contribute to the growing issue. And while it was encouraging to have about 30 teens living healthy lifestyles engaging with influential adults that evening, I walked away discouraged with what I was hearing from our younger friends.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 33 percent of high school students drank some amount of alcohol and 18 percent binge drank within 30 days of taking the 2015 survey. Even more concerning are the following numbers: 10 percent of eighth graders reported drinking within the past 30 days and a staggering 35 percent of high school seniors had done the same.

The students at the Town Hall Meeting said that their peers used alcohol due to pressures for acceptance, curiosity and to cope with personal issues. However, what alarmed me most were the students pointing out how large of a role accessibility and cultural norm plays into underage drinking. Different states look at underage drinking differently. Obviously it is illegal, but having a Fake ID in New Jersey compared to another state, just so you can buy alcohol might have different consequences to other states.

Students reported that accessibility came in the form of older siblings or friends, lack of parental awareness, home alcohol storage and even parents providing the alcohol in attempts to control “what’s going to happen anyway” in a “responsible” way.

At Youth Resources we educate our students on the importance of healthy decision-making and the consequences of destructive decisions. One thing we reinforce with all of our students is that there is no way to do something “responsibly illegal.” I echo those words to parents who think underage drinking is an inevitable norm and encourage parents to be mindful of where alcohol is stored in their homes.

Underage drinking is a huge problem in our country and in our community, but it is not inevitable. As adults we need to be bigger parts of the solution than the problem. Talk to your children about the unhealthy dangers of alcohol and help them get involved in positive extra-curriculars.

Between our Teen Advisory Council and TEENPOWER leadership teams at Youth Resources, nearly 200 local teens have contractually committed to living alcohol-free lives. Underage drinking is not inevitable. Youth Resources prides itself in being part of the solution. Will you join us?

Jeremy Brown is the TEENPOWER, Communications and Special Events Coordinator at Youth Resources.