Editorial | Teen drinking is never OK

Our story about the role of adults in “hosting” teen drinking parties sheds light on a serious but relatively hidden trend on Mercer Island. Many parents believe that if they are somehow involved in when and how teens drink, they can keep teens safe and help them transition to responsible drinking as adults.

It is more widespread than you’d expect. Many teens report that drinking downstairs while the parents remain upstairs — aware of what is going on — is common here. We are certain that no one condones teen drinking. Yet we are also certain that more than a few parents shrug their shoulders and say, “it is inevitable.” Most, we expect, want to keep their children and their friends safe — and allow teens to drink at their homes to keep them out of cars and off the street. But research shows that hosting teen drinking parties is a bad idea. Law enforcement and professionals who work with teens say that the effect that parents have on teen drinking is not inconsequential. Those professionals point out that parents play a huge role in modeling behavior, including attitudes about drinking, whether teens seem to be receptive to it at the time or not. And let’s not forget, it is against the law. Modeling law-abiding behavior is also an important task for parents.

Efforts that target parents in contemporary campaigns to stop teen drinking appear to be relatively new. But the city of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and the Police Department leave no stone unturned. This renewed effort, funded through the Communities that Care grant obtained by the city, is just part of the ongoing, dogged efforts by these agencies to combat teen drinking and other unsafe behaviors. Their efforts are to be applauded, supported and, yes, modeled by all of us.

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