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An Essay on Underage Drinking in America

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The topic that I am arguing against is: is it okay to introduce alcohol to young children to make them aware of its effects early on? I do not believe that it is okay to introduce alcohol to young kids to make them aware of its effects early on because allowing them to consume this harmful substance will make them think it is acceptable to repeat. Poor choices will come from this scenario because young children aren’t mature enough to realize the consequences of the situation. Kids who drink alcohol may not know how to control themselves, leading to dependence, trouble, or worse. I believe that introducing this mind-altering substance to children could most likely lead them towards more harmful substances. Some kids who begin drinking at a young age become alcoholics before they are legally allowed to drink. I believe that the drinking age should remain 21 years of age, allowing everyone to be mature enough to handle alcohol, including its effects and repercussions. I do not believe that it is a good idea to introduce alcohol to young children to make them aware of its effects early on, because, at such a young and vulnerable age, alcohol can cause dependency, depression, legal trouble, and other physical and mental disorders, which is a risk that I don’t believe should be taken when it comes to this scenario.

Some parents or guardians may believe that allowing their underage child to drink will give them the experience they need with the substance in the future, but statistics show that this is a bad decision on the adult’s part because, “teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Many consequences are very likely when teens drink, including car crashes involving an underage drinking driver, which is the leading cause of death for teens ”kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol related crash” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Along with negative health effects and the danger that comes with drinking, psychological issues also arise from underage drinking, “high school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of high school” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). These alcohol-associated issues are reasons why I don’t believe that young kids should be allowed to consume alcohol.

Some arguments that agree that young children should have alcohol introduced to them include: with parental supervision, young kids drinking wouldn’t cause any harm, bad choices can be made without alcohol, occasional drinks will not turn a nondrinker into an alcoholic, and alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. I do not agree with these arguments, because bottom line, alcohol is illegal for people under the age of 18, so either way you put it, underage drinking is bad and has many consequences. “Underage alcohol use increases the risk of academic failure, illicit drug use, and tobacco use. It can cause a range of physical consequences, from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning, suicide, homicide, and traffic crashes.” (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Knowing that young alcohol use can damage the structure of their child’s brain causing likely future alcohol use or abuse should be good enough to keep parents from believing that introducing alcohol to their kids is a good idea. A consequence I have witnessed myself involving alcohol is hearing of a kid I know from high school dying in a drunk driving incident. I have seen a car destroyed in a drunk driving incident displayed on the side of the road as a message from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Association. Being underage myself with many underage friends, it really hits home with me knowing that some of these people may make the wrong choice one-day and end up in one of these predicaments.

Some effective alcohol prevention techniques that I believe should be used to help children make the right decision regarding this readily available harmful substance include forming an involved family that shares “developmentally appropriate information about alcohol and other drugs” (Galson), emphasis on education, active involvement with the community, positive adult role models, and “citizen action to reduce commercial and social availability of alcohol” (Galson). Even the prevention of underage alcohol use in one child’s life could save his or her life along with the lives of others that they would otherwise endanger if they were put into the situation where a consequence from underage drinking was derived. With our generation being the next ones to run our country, I think that it is best to instill a sense of leadership and responsibility at an early age in order to encourage successful futures rather than introducing alcohol. I believe that the introduction of alcohol at a young age will cause awareness, but in the negative way. Children may not see the consequences at this age, but rather the potential fun that can come from using this mind-altering substance. The 21 plus law is in place to ensure that someone who is legally allowed to drink is mature enough to make adult decisions; therefore I don’t believe that underage kids should be drinking for any reason.

The signs of underage drinking or alcohol abuse are somewhat easy to spot because of the physical and psychological imbalances that come with drinking. Low grades, motivation, social improvement and lowered purpose in life are just some signs that should be used to find underage drinkers and prevent this from becoming an ongoing issue and eventually an addiction. “In Florida, it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to possess or drink an alcoholic beverage. Underage possession can be classified as a first or second degree misdemeanor, with penalties that may include jail, probation, and a permanent criminal record.” (Baker). One of my friends was at a bar one time, and was charged with a “minor in possession”, he was taken to jail for the night and given a $500 fine along with mandatory 30 hours of community service and a strike on his record. To me, the record is enough to make me not want to underage drink, because I know that my future depends on a clean record, and getting drunk one time at a bar or party just isn’t worth my future prospective job opportunities and things like that. I think this sense of consequence should be instilled in children, but not by physically introducing alcohol itself to them. I think that a parent speaking about the statistical consequences of alcohol with their child should be enough to warn them of their possible fate if they choose to engage in this illegal and harmful behavior.

With our generation slowly rising to become adults and the next leaders of the world, it would be pretty hard to accomplish this if half of us are dead or addicted to alcohol before the age of 21. Our generation has potential to do great things, but it also has great potential to be the next collapse in society. I personally hope, that with appropriate educational influence on underage children, we can make a difference and stop becoming just another negative statistic involving underage drinking accidents or addictions. Reducing underage drinking is a collective responsibility. If one parent becomes an alcoholic, and allows their child to drink alcohol, that child is extremely more likely to try alcohol at a young age, and become an alcoholic himself or herself in the future. A parent’s relaxed attitude towards drinking cause younger children to think that it is okay for them to engage in themselves, but I believe that this cycle of abuse can be broken. Today in America, there are many prestigious alcohol abuse programs open to anyone than ever before. Raised awareness involving alcohol abuse is showing up daily in our media. The disastrous effects of alcohol do not only affect one person, but society as a whole. The cycle can be broken when young people are educated and determined to not become just another negative statistic, and I don’t believe that this can be accomplished correctly if parents decide to give their child alcohol at a young age to make them aware of its effect early on. I believe that telling them and showing them about the consequences of underage drinking, driving drunk, and alcoholism will be a much better approach than actually allowing them to engage with this harmful substance. “About 43% of U.S. adults — 76 million people — have been exposed to alcoholism in the family — they grew up with or married an alcoholic or a problem drinker or had a blood relative who was an alcoholic or problem drinker” (Baker). If one parent decides to not engage in alcoholic behavior, that will allow this parent’s children to become rightfully educated on how to drink alcohol legally, in moderation, and not before driving. Why would a parent allow their child to drink underage when the consequences of every day life multiply? Many accidents involving drunk driving, burns, drowning, and firearm accidents occur while under the influence of alcohol that wouldn’t happen if these people decided not to abuse alcohol that day.

In conclusion, I believe that if parents take the educational approach about alcohol rather than the hands on physical approach where they allow their child to try it in order to become aware of its effects, our generation can grow up to be functioning adults within our society who can be trusted leaders in the future, rather than dead or alcoholics because of alcohol induced accidents. Although there are arguments against mine such as “accidents still happen without alcohol”, I strongly believe that this mind-altering substance can cause such calamity, especially when it comes to underage drinkers whose brains aren’t fully developed yet. Because breaking the cycle is a collective effort, I believe that we, as future parents, should step up and take responsibility of engaging in safe and moderate use of alcohol when we turn 21 in order to set a good example for our future kids, so that they don’t have to become the next death on the side of the road due to an alcohol related accident. With accidents being only one of the many consequences of underage drinking, including lack of motivation, disposition to drop out of school, lack of brain development, and legal trouble, I think that educating children on this will cause positive action in the future involving their attitude towards alcohol.

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