Shocking Statistics Bring Underage Drinking Into Focus In Middlesex
If you have children, pay attention to this. Most kids have their first alcoholic drink by age 13.
Over 100 parents and students packed a Metuchen High School in Middlesex County to talk with experts and local officials about the dangers associated with underage drinking.
"65% of middle-schoolers say they have tried alcohol" said Wayne Wirta, president of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence in New Jersey.
Teens admit its true. "I did try it when I was 13, I was pressured by a friend" said a 15 year old girl from Edison High School.
"I've gone to parties where alcohol is being served....sure, who hasn't" said another girl.
One boy said alcohol is simply easy to get.
"Its attainable. You can get it at home, you can just go in the fridge and grab a beer - no big deal."
Local surveys suggest that 60% - 80% of 11th and 12th graders obtain alcohol from home or home parties, with 30% reporting that they consume alcohol at home with their parent's permission.
"I would never host a party where alcohol is being served, but I know some parents who think its okay to take the keys from the kids and have them spend the night....what kind of message is that sending?" said a mom of four children in Edison.
But its not always that simple, said Wirta.
"All you have to do is go to the Jersey Shore and see those games of chance on the boardwalk. They have funnels and beer pong and all these games that promote drinking."
Wirta says its going to take a collective effort from parents, community leaders, elected officials and society to change the picture that drinking is okay.
"I think when that changes, which is going to take an effort like it did with tobacco or drunk driving...and we're talking decades of messages, then I think we will see the alcohol problem start to get under control."
What can parents do?
Talk to your kids about the consequences of alcohol and drugs, set and communicate clear rules.
If your teen is attending a party, call the parent host to make sure there will be appropriate supervision and no alcohol. Call your friends' parents and make sure you're all on the same page about underage drinking and how your child is getting to and from the party.
Make sure you always give your child permission to call you at any hour for any reason for a ride.
"I always say to my oldest boy that he can call us for anything and that's the message I want him to have as he heads into his high school years."