St. John youth agree that underage drinking leads to sex and fighting, according to a recent survey conducted by the Safety Zone’s Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) summer program.
The eight Love City students between the ages of 12 and 16 enrolled in the program surveyed other island youth between 11 and 17 years of age.
The survey — which operated on the presumption of wide-spread underage alcohol consumption — asked the students to weigh in on their feelings regarding the reasons teens drink and the problems caused by drinking at a young age.
Every single age group agreed that most children drink because of peer pressure and that underage drinking leads to problems such as sex and immature fights, according to the CMCA survey.
“To Feel Older and Cool”
All of the students surveyed also agreed that most teenagers drink alcohol to “make themselves feel older and cool,” according to the survey results.
When asked if “parents are responsible for the drinking problem that exists in the Virgin Islands,” younger children agreed with the statement, while older students disagreed, and instead placed the blame on alcohol vendors who don’t check for identification when selling to youth.
All age groups, except 12-year-olds, agreed that parents and guardians are unaware that their children drink, while every age agreed that “underage youth ask their older friends and siblings to purchase alcohol for them.”
Although the students surveyed expressed a variety of reasons for underage alcohol consumption, all age groups agreed that youngsters are responsible for their actions while under the influence.
The majority of every age group agreed or strongly agreed that “underage youth who drink alcohol and as a result commit crimes such as assault or murder, should be tried as adults…to deter youth from drinking prior to the legal age.”
Responsible for Actions
The youngsters surveyed also called on Virgin Islands lawmakers to take action. Across the board, students agreed that “better laws should be passed regarding underage drinking.”
The CMCA summer program aims to curtail underage drinking in the community.
Participants will focus on limiting the number of alcohol outlets which sell to underage youth; reduce the availability of alcohol from non-commercial sources such as parents, siblings or peers; and reduce community tolerance for underage purchase and consumption of alcohol by changing cultural norms which accept underage drinking.
Raising Community Awareness
“The focus of the CMCA summer program is to raise community awareness of the issues that affect youth, particularly underage drinking,” according to a press release from the group. “We have made a huge effort to mobilize the community to make institutional and policy changes that would effect a positive change among Virgin Islands youth. The youth have spoken.”
At the end of the summer program, participants will present a performance to demonstrate their thoughts on underage drinking and discourage the practice.
For additional information contact Latoya Browne, program coordinator for the Safety Zone.