Here a reader gives a teen view on reducing alcohol abuse. It’s based on her cross-cultural experience.
I came across your website while trying to find and compare alcohol abuse statistics between France and the US. Here is an excerpt of the paper I am writing. I thought you might find interesting.
As teenagers, my friends and I frequently broke the law for the thrill of doing so. We would often have an adult buy us alcohol. Then we would go into the woods and drink excessively without parental supervision.
The act of drinking itself was fun, and the fact that we knew we were doing something illegal made the parties even more fun.
Last September, I moved to France and lived there for three months. Within the first week, I found myself at a bar, having a beer with a 22 year old woman and her 16 year old sister. The teenager ordered her beer very casually, and the waiter did not ask for an ID. I was a bit taken aback by this from my own experience.
The conversation turned toward our different societies’ views on drinking alcohol. In France, one can legally drink alcohol in public by the age of 16. But the teenager told me that she had been drinking in bars for at least 2 years.
She said that it is common for youngsters to start drinking wine with their parents at the dinner table by the age of 12. Because most waiters don’t validate the age of the person they are serving, it is not a big deal when they do start drinking in bars.
Neither parents nor the law prohibits drinking at home. So there is no thrill in breaking the law. Their parents teach them to drink responsibly.
Best Way to Curb Abuse
I was thinking that perhaps the best way to curb teenage alcohol abuse would be to lower the drinking in public age. Parents should also teach that it is normal to drink alcohol, as long as it is done responsibly.
Have a beer with your kids (without getting drunk), and show them by example that moderate drinking is not a big deal. Teens usually want to do that which is forbidden to them but allowed to adults.
Personally, I know that when I have a kid I will not forbid alcohol consumption, but I will discourage them from going to parties where it is consumed. I would rather have my child drinking responsibly in our home than going to a party with a bunch of kids who were not taught to drink responsibly by their parents.
Just a thought.
Resources: Teen View on Reducing Alcohol Abuse
Legal Drinking Ages Around the World.
Teach Safe Drinking to Your Teen
Hanson, D. Education on Drinking Responsibly. In: Kesbye, S. (Ed). Should the Legal Drinking Age be Lowered? Detroit: Green, 2013.
Heath, D. et al. The misguided prohibition that governs U.S. colleges. Chron High Ed, 2001, 47(48), p. B14
Heath, D. (Ed.) Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Green, 1995.
Posted by permission. Headings added.