On a typical Friday during the school year, social media lights up about the upcoming weekend events and parties. Word spreads quickly and plans are excitedly made.
On Monday, stories are told of where students went over the weekend and what they did. Often, the stories that are perpetuated are the ones where there were drinking and wild things that happened. Because these are the stories that tend to be repeated over and over, it often is perceived that “everyone” was there and “everyone” was drinking. These stories paint a picture that underage drinking and partying are social norms.
Misperceptions are created through these types of stories. Teens actually think that most of their peers party and drink. Teens who do not drink alcohol often start drinking because they feel pressured to fit in with what they think is the norm. This is why it is so important that we change the perceptions of these social norms so that everyone knows that MOST teens in Gwinnett County do NOT drink alcohol. In the latest youth survey conducted in Gwinnett, only 11% of high school students reported that they drank alcohol in the last 30 days.
These misperceptions are not just among students. In a recent survey conducted among parents and other adults in Gwinnett, 66% of the respondents believed that a majority of teens in the county had a drink of alcohol in the last 30 days. This means that parents and other adults believe that a LOT more teens are drinking than really are. A majority also believe that most parents of teens allow them to go to parties where alcohol will be served. However, the truth is that among the teens in Gwinnett who drank in the past month, only about half of them said their parents allowed them to drink at home. That means that about 95% of the teens in Gwinnett have parents who do NOT let them drink at home. Parents and other adults should know that the norm in Gwinnett is NOT allowing underage drinking.
While this is good news, it’s important to note that youth who drink usually do so at their homes or at the homes of friends. These parents may believe that allowing their teens to drink at home will result in more responsible, lower risk drinking behaviors. The opposite is true. It actually encourages alcohol use. Research shows that allowing adolescents to drink alcohol under adult supervision leads to more drinking and more alcohol-related consequences.
We all need to share the truth about youth and alcohol use. The majority of our youth choose NOT to drink alcohol, and MOST parents do not allow their teens to drink at home and/or go to parties where alcohol is served. To those parents, we say a big THANK YOU for NOT serving alcohol to minors!
To learn more about the importance of underage drinking prevention and alcohol’s effects on teens, visit savebrains.org.