This is the last blog I will be writing on the Dateline special that allowed parents an opportunity to see how their children would act in situations when they thought no one was watching.
The last segment of the show featured another fake casting call with actors and real teens whose parents were watching through hidden cameras. In this scenario one of the actors pretended to be drunk and in one particular setting he actually drank in front of the other teens.
Then they were told that they had to drive to another location. The teen that had been drinking would be the one driving and the question every parent watching had was, “Will my teen get into a car with a driver they know has been drinking?”
While all of the parents didn’t believe their teens would do it, unfortunately every teen failed the test and yes, they did get into the car with another teen they believed had been drinking.
These teens were honor roll students so there seemed to be a greater expectation placed on their ability to make the right decision. However when it came right down to it, they weren’t able to.
My speculation is that peer pressure and not wanting to stand out and be different is what prevented them from not getting into the car. They may have felt that the chances of getting into an accident or anything bad happening were slim.
I have studied brain development in children and it is true that teen’s brains are still developing, with some portions not yet fully developed. This explains why many teens engage in risky behaviors. Yet fully developed brain or not, it comes down to making the right choice.
We cannot guarantee that our children will always do the right thing. We hope that they will. We trust that they have listened to our wisdom, yet the reality is that they will make decisions we may have no control over.
Talking to our teens is one way to stop situations like this one from occurring. We need to be open and honest with our teens. They need to know that no matter what, if they need us we will be reachable. Teens need to know that without questions being asked, we will pick them up even if it’s the middle of the night.
Another way to help stop situations like this from happening is to be a good example before our teens. They are watching what we say and what we do and making sure it lines up. They will sometimes call us on the carpet when we are preaching one thing but doing another.
Parents, talk to your teens about drinking. Don’t assume they will always do the right thing or that they even know what the right thing to do is.