Teens are drinking at earlier ages now more than ever. In the United States, more than 50 percent of youths ages 12 to 20 have tried alcohol at least once, reports HelpGuide.org. Teen drinkers are more likely to behave violently, engage in risky sexual behavior, attempt suicide or develop problems with alcohol later in life. Peer pressure is one of the leading contributing factors to teen drinking.
Understanding Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is the feeling of being encouraged by your own age group to do something -- whether you want to or not. Spoken pressure is when someone makes a direct comment to peers to encourage them to do something. Unspoken pressure is when someone engages in an activity or behavior believing that it’s cool and everyone else is doing it. At the heart of engaging in peer pressure is the need to feel accepted.
College and Peer Pressure
Forty percent of college students binge drink -- have four or more drinks occasionally -- far exceeding the rate for their non-college peers, reports NYU Steinhardt. Students rely more on their peers for support and guidance in college, which increases the opportunity for peer pressure to occur, increasing the likelihood of drinking. It doesn't help that peers often provide alcohol to each other without considering the consequences of drinking.
Talking to Teens about Drinking
Speaking with your teen can make a difference. Have an open, frank discussion, and let your teen know there’s nothing wrong with saying no. Don't scold or lecture your teen if you want them to feel comfortable talking with you about drinking. However, let your teen know that drinking and driving is unacceptable and explain the consequences such as taking a life and prison. If they do choose to drink, let them know they can call you for a ride, take a cab or ask for permission to stay overnight at a friend’s house.
Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse
It's easy for parents to be in denial that their child has a substance-abuse problem, especially if they lead a busy lifestyle and the child spends a lot of time home alone. Teens are also quite skilled at hiding things from parents. Here are a few signs of alcohol abuse to watch for: behavioral problems such as fighting and stealing, skipping school or a drop in academic performance. If you suspect your child has a problem, consult a support group or health professional.