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Wilburn: Free time during spring break may lead to risky behavior
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Thoughts of spring are on everyone’s mind. However, this time of year brings with it opportunities for teens to make choices that are potentially dangerous. Spring break parties, trips and proms all pose situations where teens need to make choices.

Today’s version of spring break is a far cry from innocent scenes of beach volleyball and sand castles. More teens than ever are putting themselves at risk during spring break. According to travel industry experts, an estimated one in seven (15 percent) young people on spring break destinations are high school students. Even teens who stay at home can be at risk. Unsupervised time, money to spend and peer pressure to “have fun” can be a recipe for risky behaviors.

“After-parties” following a school-sponsored prom often involve alcohol, too. Parents often look the other way, or even help, when teens rent hotel rooms for these post-prom parties.

Alcohol use is a complex issue in that it is influenced by cultural, family and community traditions.
Parents will want to think about what messages they give to their teen if they condone underage drinking. It tells teens that it is OK to do something that is illegal and against the rules of the school and other places where they are involved. It says that people can’t have fun without drinking.

During spring break, know your teen’s itinerary and where he or she is staying. If they are staying home, know how they are spending their unsupervised time. Ask questions. Require a daily check-in via cell phone and make sure your teen is reachable. Make sure to have cell phone numbers for your teen’s friends and check in with them as necessary, too. Network with and connect with other parents to confirm plans and coordinate rules.

The conversation about risky behaviors and giving a clear no-use message isn’t easy. But it is a responsibility of being a parent.

Adapted from University of Minnesota Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer
science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.