The pressure on teenagers to abuse alcohol has never been so high. Social media platforms like Facebook have become a major factor in encouraging young people to drink too much. One of the biggest fears at the moment is an online game called NekNomination. This is where young people dare each other to consume extremely strong beverages and post videos of themselves doing it on platforms like YouTube. Those who complete the challenge get to dare others with an even bigger challenge. There have already been a number of teenage deaths due to the NekNomination game; it can involve drinking pints of spirits sometimes mixed drugs or chemicals like nail polish.
Protecting Children from Social Media Pressures to Drink Alcohol
Keeping older teenagers safe from social media pressures to drink alcohol can be tricky for parents. It is common for them to be uneasy about invading the privacy of their older kids through tracking their behaviour online – although 60 per cent of parents in the UK admit to doing this. There are things that parents can do to monitor the situation, including:
- only allowing teenagers to use the internet in a shared room of the house (for example, the living room)
- providing clear rules for how teenagers should behave on social media
- asking to see what their kids are up to online
- unplugging the router at times when kids would be able to go online unsupervised (for example, late at night)
- using parental control software to determine when kids can go online and which sites they will be able to visit
- discussing the dangers of games like NekNomination and other social media pressures to drink alcohol.
Signs that Kids are Abusing Alcohol
Prevention will always be better than cure, but despite the best efforts of parents, kids can still start to abuse alcohol. The longer teenagers are able to get away with this type of behaviour, the more dangerous it will be for them. It does not have to take long before they develop an addiction. It is therefore vital that parents are able to spot the signs of alcohol abuse, which can include symptoms such as:
- problems at school or performing less well
- appearing ill in the mornings
- strange smells on clothing
- hanging around with a new group of friends
- loss of interest in old hobbies
- alcohol going missing from the home or watered down alcohol
- money going missing from the home
- mood swings
- secretive behaviour
- eating lots of mints
- rebelling against rules
- appearing to have memory problems – this can be due to blackouts
- low energy
- periods of being aggressive
- increased clumsiness.
Parents suspecting that their child may be drinking need to take action. It is usually best to approach this confrontation calmly without being too judgemental. If the teenager feels they have the opportunity to be honest and open, they will be more likely to make use of this chance to talk about their behaviour. It can be very beneficial to enlist the help of an addiction therapist or counsellor – especially if you suspect the young person has already developed a problem.
Plenty of good treatment options are available for children who have become addicted to alcohol. There are now rehabs that specialise in treating young people, and there are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings where most of the members are teenagers. There is plenty of support available once the young person becomes willing to accept help.