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Should my teenager go on spring break?


Spring Break Risks and Safer Alternatives

Health and safety experts say there are plenty of reasons you shouldn't let your teen engage in spring break festivities. For example, a study conducted by the American Medical Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2006 found that college age women on spring break trips had an alarming tendency to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and engage in high-risk sexual activity. Ninety percent said that beer, wine and booze were easy to obtain during spring break, and 83 percent said that drinking heavily was a big part of the fun. One in five had sexual experiences during spring break that they later regretted. And those girls were college aged -- a few years older than your impressionable high school teen.

But it's not only young women who engage in risky behavior on spring break. During spring break 2010, a 17-year-old named Matt James, who had earned a football scholarship to Notre Dame, fell to his death from a Panama City Beach, Fla., hotel balcony, apparently after drinking alcohol. His death made national news, but it wasn't the first of such tragedies. Just two weeks prior, a 19-year-old Georgia man died in pretty much exactly the same way. During a 17-day stretch in March, Panama City police arrested nearly 1,000 teens for underage drinking.

Spring break "is no place to send your high school kid," Detroit Free Press columnist and best-selling inspirational book author Mitch Albom advises. "I don't care how much they beg. I don't care how much they work in school. And I really don't care how much they promise not to drink."

But if you refuse spring break, how do you deal with your sulky teen? Experts suggest offering some alternatives to the drunken coming-of-age rite. Perhaps you can take the entire family to Paris or Hawaii, or anyplace that will seem more appealing than a sweaty, beer-soaked motel room in Florida.

Another possibility is to encourage your teen to spend spring break doing something to help make the world a better place. In Atlanta, Ga., for example, several high schools set up programs in which teens could spend their vacations on well-supervised humanitarian missions where they did everything from help elderly people in Appalachia to work in Haitian orphanages.