There’s no question that binge drinking is dangerous; it makes no difference if you’re young or old, male or female. However, as many of our readers know, binge drinking among America's youth has been steadily declining for more than a decade--78% of high school students do not binge drink--yet the recently released CDC Vital Signs Report fails to mention that progress. Similarly, the report fails to mention that underage drinking among teen girls has decreased at an even faster pace than that of their male peers. Young women, as The Century Council learned nearly ten years ago when we developed our Girl Talk program, face special challenges when it comes to alcohol. Women are more susceptible to intoxication and alcohol poisoning, consumption can affect reproductive development and can be dangerous for young women with depression and body image or weight concerns.
As the father of a seventeen-year-old girl headed to college in the fall, this issue is at the forefront of my mind both personally and professionally. The Century Council is committed to fostering increased communication between young women and their parents, who are the leading influence on their decisions to drink. Mothers and fathers should listen, be approachable, be a parent and not a friend, discuss the risks, and make sure young women know help is available. As adults, if you choose to consume, especially if you are consuming in front of your teens, do so responsibly. Always model responsible and moderate behavior for your teens. Be firm and make your boundaries clear. When teens make decisions about alcohol, marketing, price, and the proximity of a store are no match for a parent's influence.
While The Century Council appreciates the CDC bringing binge drinking data to the attention of the media and the public, I would have appreciated a fresher approach than sensational headlines and the same laundry list of policy solutions. While the parental urge to protect our kids is as old as time, we need new and practical solutions to keep up with the changing world around us. In the meantime, Moms and Dads – step up your game. Your kids are watching!
President and CEO, The Century Council