A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that "college students who displayed photos of themselves holding a beer or cocktail or who posted status updates of their drinking habits were four times more likely to be problem drinkers compared with those who didn't have any alcohol references in their Facebook profiles." This might be an interesting way to start a discussion with your teen about drinking behavior. Many teens love to plaster their Facebook pages with their party adventures. As in "man I was so trashed this weekend that I......." You might say to your teen: "In the paper this morning there were results from a study (see above) What do you think about that? When you're on Facebook, are the kids who post the most about partying the kids who drink the most?" The reason this study is important is that it highlights what I know many teens feel, that you can't have any fun unless you are "high" in some fashion. That being "intoxicated" is the actual entertainment of the weekend rather than an accessory. In other words, the acquiring of and then the imbibing of the booze or pot is the actual activity of the night.
A few years back I was on a committee that was focused on dealing with the issue of teen drug and alcohol use. There was a major event coming up in the community that in the past had been a mecca for drunk teens. There had been one too many teens sent in ambulances to emergency rooms for stomach pumping due to excessive drinking and we were trying to come up with some strategies to keep the kids safe during this upcoming annual event. The members of this group were varied, including parents, teachers, therapists, police and the most important experts of all, teens. What the teens told us was alarming and depressing. They said that if the teens felt that there were too many roadblocks in place, so they couldn't come in high (breathalyzers), or couldn't sneak in boos (bags, coats etc not allowed in the dance space) then kids wouldn't come to the event. It wasn't the dancing or dressing up that was a fun, it was the being trashed. This made me sad.
It's not only important to address the safety issues of drugs and alcohol, but also the underlying motivators as well. Getting teens to think why they drink or smoke pot is equally as important as staying safe while they're doing it. Most kids don't think about this at all. They get caught up in the moment of partying, but don't really think about why they like being buzzed. Having a judgement free conversation about this can plant some important seeds of self-reflection. It might go like this: " I get when you are at parties, and out with friends, that kids are usually drinking and smoking pot. Have you ever thought about why it feels so fun to be high, and why teens are so driven to do it? Is it the being out of control that feels fun, or maybe it makes you feel less shy when you hang with the guys/girls? Does it kind of give kids permission to do and be outrageous and then can blame it on being trashed? I wonder if kids are just bored and drinking makes just hanging around less boring? What do you think"
Teens are impulsive and fun-loving. No surprise there. But as they move out into the world, away from your safety net, you want them to be able to set up their own safety net. Helping them to develop a mindfulness about how they live in the world will do that.