Our View: Tough choices

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Parents have a lot of hard choices in life.

So do their teens.

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Teen alcohol consumption is one such choice.

The legal age to drink is 21. However, the editorial board believes few teens wait until that age. And from what we've heard from various parents, views on teen alcohol consumption ranges greatly.

Some parents refuse to allow alcohol in their house or allow their kids to drink it (whether the latter happens is up for debate).

Some parents believe teens are going to drink anyway, and as parents, they would rather youngsters do so in their house, where the teens can be monitored.

Some parents believe alcohol is a fact of life, and allow teens to deal with it on their own terms.

Using other parents' stories and personal experience as examples, editorial board members could not agree on the best path to deal with teens and alcohol other than this: Parents must teach youngsters responsibility with alcohol and give teens the tools to understand the results of such choices.

Don't take this wrong. We're not talking about breaking the law. We encourage youths to wait until age 21 to consume alcohol, when they can do so legally.

But we're also talking about dealing with reality, and reality paints a picture of teens consuming alcohol.

According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug information, the average age when youths first try alcohol is age 11 for boys and 13 for girls, while the average age Americans begin drinking regularly is just under age 16.

According to research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, youths who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.

The problems of teen alcohol consumption are well chronicled. From mental health problems and motor-skill development to how alcohol can kill --the three leading causes of death for teens to young adults, ages 15 to 24, are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides; alcohol is a leading factor in all three -- irresponsible alcohol use can have real impacts.

That's where you come in as a parent. The editorial board is not going to preach how you should raise your child in regards to alcohol use. But, however you do it, teach him or her to be responsible.

Again, the best way to avoid problems associated with teens and alcohol is for teens to avoid alcohol until they are of legal age.

The editorial board applauds the teens who attended Saturday night's prom and after prom and found an alcohol free environment. They made a good choice.

It's not easy to make those kinds of choices in a world of peer pressure, and we hope that as graduation approaches, they make the same types of decisions.

We applaud the parents who helped put on the after-prom event and gave the town's youths an alternative.

We also applaud the parents who deal with the tough choices they and their kids face, and help their teens do the same.

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