High School Parties: 2019 Edition
After family dinner, Roxanne’s parents dropped her off at her friend Ally’s house, “for a movie”. As she watched them drive away she took off her sweatshirt and sweatpants to reveal her crop top and mini skirt. She walked in and surveyed the upstairs area to ensure it was not too loud and as Ally walked downstairs, her friends greeted her with drinks in their hands while others were playing a round of pong, some already drunk, it was only 8 pm. She scurried to find a flavored spritzer before they were all gone, which the guys bought with fake IDs.
“Going to moves (parties) every weekend is what gets me through the week, it’s what I look forward to”
Drinking and partying in high school has been going on for generations, but parents continue to struggle with how restrictive they should be. We often hear parents reminiscing about their experiences at parties, yet many still choose to have a “zero-tolerance policy” with their children, meaning that if they get caught drinking, they are immediately punished. It is a difficult position to be in because keeping your teen safe is a priority. But there are also downsides to strict parenting when it comes to parties. Some teens are so afraid of being punished by their parents that they put themselves in dangerous situations.
Teen drinking has undergone a significant demographic shift in recent decades. On a national scale, the decrease in alcohol consumption among minors is due to the increase in the minimum drinking age from 18 to 21. On a more local scale, drug and alcohol laws have been more strongly enforced in recent years. Even though the number of people drinking has decreased, many teens that do drink start at a younger age and with larger quantities. In 2003, the average age of first alcoholic drink was about 14, compared to about 17 in 1965. That statistic is extremely interesting because the legal drinking age was higher in 2003 than in 1965. A female interviewee recalls drinking for the first time at 14 with older boys because they were the boys that could go buy the alcohol. Another male interviewee recalls that he didn’t start drinking until he was almost 16 but now drinks rather often.
Age defines and creates different responsibilities and expectations for teenagers as each generation goes on. Within the four years of high school, each individual undergoes tremendous changes, from their looks to priorities. As teenagers grow older, they tend to drink more. In the modern age of social media, cyberbullying, the college process, and other various issues, drinking is sometimes used by teenagers as a reward or escape from the stressors of their lives. Alcohol also becomes easier to acquire as high school students become upperclassmen and appear old enough to get a fake ID. Although fake IDs have been around for a long time, they have also become more expensive and sophisticated. The interviewed underclassmen at Bethesda- Chevy Chase High school typically didn’t have IDs, while the upperclassmen interviewed typically had fake IDs or were planning on getting them in the near future.
Individuals with older siblings in high school or college also impact the time a child will start drinking, the youngest sibling is more likely to consume alcohol due to the influence the older sibling has over them. Social media allows teenagers easy access to see what older kids are doing and allows them to copy their habits. This leads to growing up much faster and increases the likelihood of younger generations taking risks.
“My sister and I sometimes got high together during the summer. Almost every day actually”
Economically, the few limiting factors in alcohol consumption are rising alcohol prices and underage buying and selling of alcohol with fake IDs. A fake ID can cost anywhere from 60 to 200 dollars, and usually if you buy from someone you do not know, they upcharge. But, when in trouble with law enforcement, affluent teens are much more likely to get away with illegal substances. They are able to afford lawyers and their parents have connections that allow them to get out of legal trouble while lower-income families don’t have the ability to afford lawyers. This also reflects the disparity of wealth that can affect teens in legal consequences. When going out to a party or get together where drinking is involved, everyone must “throw” money, “normally the kid with the fake ID will buy everything, then charge the kids that will be drinking a certain amount of money so that the buyer doesn’t get ripped off”.
Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for the students at B-CC in this sense. When the weekend comes and people need money for alcohol, most students have no issue paying for alcohol.
Although the actual party may be something for kids to look forward to, some kids explained to us their fears in the recreational experience. The majority of girls we interviewed repeated very similar fears to us. Sexual assault, abduction in Ubers, alcohol poisoning, and parental repercussions. The boys rarely reported any fears, and if they did, it was parental repercussions.
Overall, the number of teens that drink and party every weekend has gone down, but the frequency of teen alcohol consumption has gone up. Usually, it is the same groups of people that do it over and over again and rarely branch out, which also reinforces cliques in high school. Despite the limitations, for decades, drinking and partying throughout high school is seen as a right of passage for some teens.