OPED: Keep Teens Safe Over Holidays by Preventing Them from Drinking Alcohol

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With the holiday season under way, as we prepare for joyful celebrations with family and friends, the Watertown Youth Coalition (WYC) partner agencies, Wayside Multi, and the Watertown Police, Schools and Health Departments would like to remind all adults to pay special attention and help continue to prevent teens from drinking alcohol.

Teen alcohol use can lead to unsafe behaviors that put their health and safety at-risk. Underage drinking affects everyone in the community and if we work together we can continue to ensure the healthy and safe development of our youth. After all, every year a teen does not use alcohol, the odds of lifelong dependence decrease by 15%.

In 2017, the Watertown Youth Coalition administered the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to Watertown High and Middle School students. Good news! Survey results show that underage drinking among WHS continues to decrease with roughly two thirds of the students surveyed reporting they did not drink alcohol in the past 30 days. However, 1/3 said they are drinking and are mostly getting alcohol from older siblings /friends or from home without their parent’s knowledge. And 1/3 of WHS students said their parents do not know
they drink or do not know how much they drink. Oftentimes, due to their developing brain, when teens drink, they drink too much.

Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to use other drugs, including marijuana and opioids, and risk experiencing alcohol poisoning, car crashes, injuries, violence, changes in brain development, or unprotected/unwanted sex. Other negative consequences of underage drinking may also include losing parents’ trust, being arrested and losing the privilege to participate in sports. It is up to all of us to help them make healthy decisions and avoid these negative consequences.

As a parent or guardian, you can and do make a difference!

Here are some tips to reduce teen drinking:

1. Keep alcohol in a secure location preferably in locked cabinets. Even if you trust your teen, their friends may be tempted by what’s available in your home.

2. If you are hosting a party, do not leave unsupervised alcohol around where it is
accessible to underage guests and tell other relatives not to serve alcohol to your child under the age of 21.

3. Let your child know what you expect. Tell your teen that adults may be drinking during the holidays but under no circumstances is he/she allowed to drink alcohol.

4. Check on the details, if your child is attending a party. Find out if there will be parental supervision and be sure no alcohol will be available at the parties your teen will be attending.

5. Never serve alcohol to anyone under 21 and don’t allow children to serve alcohol to others. It is illegal to serve or provide alcohol to underage youth or allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. If you do, you may be
prosecuted criminally (See Social Host Liability Law below).

6. Make sure not to leave your teenagers home alone when you go out of town. Word gets out quickly and a drinking party can develop even without your child’s consent. You could then be civilly liable if a partygoer injures him or herself.

7. Do not relax your family rules with your own teens during the holidays – it will be hard to return to previous expectations.

Adults, youth, law enforcement, businesses, schools, health department, town government, churches, and others who make up the Watertown Youth Coalition are working together to promote healthy alternatives to youth partying and to reduce underage use of alcohol and other drugs. Please help be part of the solution and do what you can to reduce youth access to alcohol. Please join the efforts of the Youth Coalition. For more information please visit our Watertown Youth Coalition Facebook page: www.facebook.com/watertownyouthcoalition/
or contact us at 617-926- 3600 or Lisa_Gibalerio@waysideyouth.org.

On behalf of the Watertown Youth Coalition, the Watertown Police, Schools and Health Departments, and Wayside Multi-Service Center, we wish you a peaceful, safe and happy holiday season.


Minors and Serving Alcohol

• If you are 21 or older it is illegal to buy or supply alcohol to individuals under 21 or to allow them to drink in a place under your control.

• When you host a party where alcohol is served you are held liable whether the host is an adult or a minor.

• The host is civilly responsible for any injury that occurs because of an intoxicated person from their event, injuring him/her self or another person.


•  Civil Liability: There are no limits to the amount of money you can lose if you are sued.


Signed by:

Michael Lawn, Chief of Police
Laura Kurman, Program Director, Wayside Multi-Service Center
Deborah Rosati, Director of Public Health
Dede Galdston, Superintendent of Schools
Shirley Lundberg, Principal WHS
Kimo Carter, Principal, WMS

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