Prom and graduation season is a time of celebration and joy. Every parent who has a teen attending prom or graduating from high school wants the occasion to be safe and happy. Sometimes the celebrations can take a turn in the wrong direction, especially when alcohol is involved.
Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa (SATUCI) and SATUCI Youth Partners are sponsoring their fifth annual “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most” campaign from April through June to educate parents about the health and safety risks of serving alcohol at teen house parties. SATUCI Youth Partners and the Drug-Free Action Alliance work together on this public service campaign to bring the theme “Parents Who Host, Lose the Most – Don’t Be a Party to Teenage Drinking” to the community.
The campaign has grown each year in Marshalltown and both parents and students have been involved in spreading the message that teen alcohol consumption is not acceptable. The campaign is timely because results of the Iowa Youth Survey show the percentage of Marshalltown 11th graders who are binge drinking has increased from 19 percent in both 2009 and 2010 to 25 percent in 2011. The Iowa Youth Survey, administered in Iowa high schools by the Iowa Department of Public Health, is the biggest source of data to get teen perceptions about alcohol and drugs.
Vickie Lewis, director of professional services at SATUCI, said although the percentage of teens who binge drink has increased, other data has shown that over the past 10 years, there has been an overall decrease in the use of alcohol. “We know the percentage of 11th graders who said they drank alcohol over the past 30 days has decreased by 26 percent over the last 10 years. Teens tend to believe that everyone is drinking alcohol, but that isn’t true. There are often misperceptions among teens about how many of their peers are actually drinking alcohol.” Lewis added that 82 percent of sixth, eighth and 11th graders surveyed in the Iowa Youth Survey said they had better things to do than drink alcohol.
Lewis said teens also believe they will be more popular with their peers if they drink alcohol. The Iowa Youth Survey shows that 41 percent of 11th graders said they thought they would be more popular with their peers if they drank alcohol.
The Parents Who Host campaign is one way the Marshalltown community can help to continue to work on issues with underage drinking, Lewis said. “Parents and adults also need to be reminded about the role they have in underage drinking,” Lewis said. “Teens say the number one reason they don’t drink alcohol is they don’t want to lose their parent’s respect. That shows how important parents are in their child’s life.”
Activities of the campaign include the placement of yard signs with the Parents Who Host campaign logo and theme. The signs are reminders that hosting a prom or graduation party where alcohol is available to underage youth is illegal. A billboard featuring two Marshalltown Police officers that reinforces the idea that hosting an underage drinking party is illegal is also currently on display in Marshalltown and a second billboard will go up later in April. Newspaper and radio ads also are running during the campaign.
SATUCI Youth Partners, comprised of agencies and organizations in the community that offer youth services, will also sponsor a “sticker shock” event later in April. Youth Partners and students will place stickers on containers of alcohol in participating stores. The stickers contain a message that reminds buyers of the alcohol that providing alcohol to underage youth is illegal. Because the Iowa Youth Survey says that teens obtain their alcohol either at a party or from friends, the sticker shock event is yet another reminder for adults. “Adults who provide alcohol to underage youth send a mixed message and only add to a teen’s confusion about the acceptability of drinking. Our youth deserve to live and grow to adulthood in an environment where alcohol is not misused. Hosting alcohol-free parties show our youth we care about their future,” Lewis said.
The Parents Who Host campaign also aligns with the city’s Social Host Ordinance, which was approved by the city council last year. The law imposes fines to people who allow underage persons to consume alcohol on the host’s property.
Anyone who would like to display a Parents Who Host sign in their yard may contact Shannon Chyma at SATUCI at 752-5421. For more information on the Parents Who Host campaign, go to www.youthpartnersmarshalltown.com.