For as long as I have been writing for the Livingston Daily Press and Argus, I have chosen the topic of underage drinking for the month of April.
April is the time when spring fever hits and teens throughout our county have turned their thoughts to upcoming celebrations, such as prom and graduation. Those are often the events where an increase in underage alcohol use occur.
I debated whether to write about something else, but like many in our community, I believe it is an important issue and should remain as my April focus.
By the time this article is published, the Livingston Community Prevention Project’s annual underage-drinking education and awareness campaign will be in full swing. The Parents Who Host Lose the Most campaign has been visible in Livingston County since 2009. Each April, PWHLM kicks off for another season devoted to educating and raising awareness around both the prevention and the reduction of underage drinking, a topic that remains on the top of local, state, and national agendas.
The LCPP, which I am a part of, believes it is a topic that deserves attention each year, which is why they continue to implement the PWHLM campaign. The PWHLM campaign message focuses on a parent’s role in the prevention of underage drinking and encourages all parents and adults to take part in LCPP’s efforts.
One way they can do that is through understanding the risks involved in knowingly allowing underage drinking to take place in their homes or on their properties. That involves understanding social host liability laws, which outline the legal consequences, including fines and criminal charges. That continues to be a key piece of the project’s goals.
The 2015 PWHLM campaign will once again reinforce that message, but would also like to ask: Besides the legal consequences, what else can a parent lose?
There are many unsafe and unhealthy things that occur when a parent makes a decision to allow drinking to take place. That is of concern due to the fact that a majority of Livingston County teens reported in the 2014 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth that when they drink alcohol, they do so at another person’s house. It is other parents’ kids who may be drinking at your home.
If parents and adults in our community allow underage drinking to take place, they are doing so with a population who is at increased risk, just by the nature of who they are. What we know about the teen brain tells us that.
We also know that when teens drink they typically binge drink, which puts them at an increased risk for alcohol poisoning, unprotected sex, falls, sexual assault, embarrassing behavior, fights, car accidents, and making other unsafe and unhealthy decisions. There is nothing on that list that a parent would wish for any young person.
The LCPP would like all parents in our community to make a commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of all Livingston County youth. They can do their part, by not hosting parties where alcohol use is allowed. There is too much to lose.
Kris Nelson works as a school social worker and prevention specialist in Livingston County. You can reach her at Key Development Center by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.