Teen Drinking

Which leads to what? Is what we expect of teens lead to us getting what we expect?

This past Wednesday’s archival 60 Minutes segment was on teen drinking – the story of one man who was arrested for letting his son have a party at their home in which teenagers were binge drinking.

When I created the promotions on the Yahoo! News Web site, I focused on this central question from the segment: should parents be arrested, or otherwise be held responsible under the law, for allowing teenagers – their teenagers and others – to drink in their home. The response from our readers has been passionate.

Many parents have sympathized with the arguments of the father in our story, who said that he allowed his son to have a prom party at their home, complete with lots of alcohol consumption, so that he could at least control as much of the situation as possible and ensure his child was safe.

It’s a point of view that led to a debate in our own newsroom between me and my managing editor. I’ll keep our conversation to ourselves. But I will say that the segment poses some troubling questions that go to the root of a broader question that’s trailed generation after generation – how do we view our teen-agers? How do we communicate with them? And what do we expect of them?

When I was a teen-ager writing for a wonderful teen paper called L.A. Youth, our managing editor and mentor at the time – an amazing journalist and educator by the name of Libby Hartigan – told us that adults time and time again underestimate teens and do not give them enough credit. Back then and over the years, I have found her words to ring true. And I wonder, with this 60 Minutes report, whether we are seeing a chicken and the egg situation.

Which leads to what? Is what we expect of teens lead to us getting what we expect?


3 thoughts on “Teen Drinking

  1. I agree that undersestimating the decision making skills of the kids in this manner may also be an issue, but I think the broader question should be why we allow drinking to remain such a sanctified part of our culture.

    I am a student of history and understand the failures of prohibition and the repercussions of said failure, but we live in a different age. Thirty-five years ago no one would have thought that smoking would be all but banned in public places and even in some private. Smoking is no longer mainstream, no longer a rite of passage, and is vilified for its stench and carcinogens. While alcohol is bigtime mainstream, considered a rite of passage into adulthood, and is glorified through advertising, entertainment, and pop culture.

    For all its hoopla, we gain little benefit from this alcohol consumption and yet so much harm. Instead of tabling discussions on at how to expose our young to alcohol, we should be discussing ways to change the way our culture and then our kids view alcohol in the first place.

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