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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Underage drinking: When parents don’t agree with the law

Wednesday’s Post story about WUSA reporter Andrea McCarren pulling her name from her reports on underage drinking in the area is disturbing on many levels.
Should parents accept teen drinking as a reality? (Andy Cripe/Associated Press)

The story, by Paul Farhi, examines the bullying she — and her children — received as a result of her reports on a liquor store that allegedly sells alcohol to teenagers and a Bethesda party where teens were arrested for drinking. In that story, some parents expressed anger at the police for arresting their kids.

Apparently insults and threats were spewed on her Facebook account and her children were harassed at school.

One of the surprising elements of the case is that among her critics were parents. Farhi quotes one Facebook post: “You can’t try and take away something that teens love without retaliation. Haven’t you ever heard of teenage rebellion? Teens love to drink and I’m sure they’ll be laughing it up about your report while they party tonight.”

The complaints are a window into a parental perspective that is rarely aired in public. Quite a few parents disagree with laws regarding kids and alcohol and privately circumvent them.

A comprehensive study released last year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported that of the 6 percent of 12 to 14 year olds who reported having drank alcohol in the previous month, more than 15 percent of them — or more than 110,000 kids — had been given alcohol by their parents or a guardian.

And those are just the middle-schoolers.

American teens are well known to have a tortured relationship with drinking. Even though the legal drinking age is 21, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about a quarter of 16 and 17 year olds are drinkers and about half of older teens are.

Some parents, many of whom grew up with lower age limits, see hypocrisy in expecting teens to abstain until they’re 21. They might want to argue that kids who drink under parental supervision are safer, but we usually only hear their side when the outcome is tragic.

Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania mother was arrested after she hosted a keg party for her son and three of his friends later died in a deadly drunk-driving car accident.

In 2007, Virginia mother Elisa Kelly drew headlines after she received jail time for hosting her son’s 16th birthday party and providing alcohol.

The McCarren harassers are certainly not contributing to a legitimate debate on the issue. If they had openly questioned the premise of the law, as opposed to attacking the messenger, maybe we could have had a more honest conversation about teens and alcohol and what parents really think.

Too bad that the heavy-handed tactics of a few will probably push the issue more firmly into the woods, alongside the teens who keep drinking.

What do you think about underage drinking laws?

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Tags:  Ethics, Teens

 
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